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New Japan-Philippines Military Deal Upsets China


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The RAA enables Japanese forces to deploy in the Philippines for joint military exercises, while Filipino forces can conduct combat training in Japan. This agreement, which requires ratification by both countries’ legislatures, underscores a deepening of defense ties amidst escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.

Strategic Significance

This pact is part of a broader strategy by Japan and the Philippines, both long-standing allies of the United States, to counterbalance China’s assertiveness. China claims more than 90% of the South China Sea, overlapping with the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations. The 2016 Hague tribunal ruling that Beijing’s claims have no legal basis has not deterred China’s actions, leading to frequent confrontations between Chinese and Philippine forces in disputed waters.

Military and Economic Cooperation

Beyond military exercises, the RAA signifies a commitment to broader security cooperation. Japan has pledged to provide coastal surveillance radar systems and additional patrol vessels to the Philippines, enhancing its maritime defense capabilities. This collaboration extends to economic sectors, with both nations aiming to strengthen supply chain resilience and cooperate on human resource development in the semiconductor sector.

Implications for China

Heightened Regional Tensions

The Japan-Philippines defense pact is likely to escalate tensions with China, which views such alliances as direct threats to its regional ambitions. The South China Sea, a crucial maritime route rich in resources, is a flashpoint for Sino-Philippine tensions. The presence of Japanese forces in the Philippines could be perceived by Beijing as a strategic encirclement, prompting potential retaliatory measures.

Impact on the One China Policy

China’s One China policy asserts its sovereignty over Taiwan, a stance that is increasingly challenged by regional military alliances. The Japan-Philippines pact, along with similar agreements Japan has with Australia and the United Kingdom, signals a coalition of democracies aiming to counter Chinese hegemony. This could embolden Taiwan’s position, complicating Beijing’s efforts to isolate the island diplomatically and militarily.

Strategic Military Alliances

The pact aligns with broader efforts by the U.S., Japan, and the Philippines to enhance military cooperation. The recent trilateral summit in Washington, D.C., and joint military drills in the South China Sea involving Australia highlight a coordinated approach to regional security. These alliances pose a significant challenge to China’s strategic calculus, potentially forcing Beijing to rethink its military and diplomatic strategies.

Effects on U.S. Policy

Strengthening Alliances

For the United States, the Japan-Philippines pact strengthens a network of alliances crucial for maintaining a balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. Enhanced military cooperation between its allies supports U.S. strategic interests, providing a counterweight to China’s growing influence.

Economic and Security Implications

The U.S. could leverage this pact to bolster its economic and security presence in the region. By supporting joint military exercises and defense capabilities of allies, the U.S. ensures the stability of critical maritime routes and deters potential Chinese aggression. This stability is essential for global trade and economic security, aligning with U.S. interests.

Diplomatic Maneuvering

The U.S. might also use this pact as a diplomatic tool to pressure China on various fronts, including human rights, trade practices, and regional security issues. By demonstrating a unified front with Japan and the Philippines, the U.S. can exert greater influence in international forums and negotiations.

Reciprocal Access Agreement

The Japan-Philippines Reciprocal Access Agreement marks a significant step in regional defense cooperation, with far-reaching implications for China and the broader Asia-Pacific region. As Japan and the Philippines fortify their military alliance amidst shared concerns over China’s assertiveness, the geopolitical landscape is set to become more complex and contested. For China, this pact represents a challenge to its regional ambitions and the One China policy, while for the U.S., it reinforces a network of alliances essential for maintaining regional stability and countering Chinese influence.

Wasim Qadri
Wasim Qadri
Islamabad based Senior Journalist, TV Show Host, Media Trainer, can be follow on twitter @jaranwaliya

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