On Wednesday, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. departs for Japan for a trip that is anticipated to open the door for stronger security relations with Tokyo as Manila increasingly aligns with the US in its regional conflict with China.

As a possible first step toward creating a more comprehensive legislative framework that would make it simpler for Japanese military to deploy to the Philippines, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Marcos are likely to intensify their collaboration in disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

According to a Japanese defence ministry source familiar with internal national security deliberations, it is crucial for regional security that Japan participate as the United States strengthens its relationship with the Philippines. Because he is not authorized to speak to the media, he asked to remain anonymous.

Marcos’ first trip to Japan since taking office in July follows the signing of a deal last week that gives the US more access to Japanese military bases. Additionally, it comes after his visit to Beijing last month, during which he informed his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, that the Philippines would pursue a separate foreign policy.

In a speech prior to leaving Manila, Marcos declared that his bilateral trip to Japan was crucial. “In a complex international climate, it is part of a bigger foreign policy goal to develop tighter political relations, stronger defense and security cooperation, as well as long-lasting commercial collaborations with significant countries in the region.”

According to Marcos, he will foster cooperation in key sectors like infrastructure, defense and security, renewable energy, agriculture, and digital transformation.

Tokyo, which has been strengthening its security connections with countries that are wary of China, shares that opinion.

Japan and Australia inked a visiting forces agreement one year ago, allowing them to station troops on each other’s territory. Tokyo also struck a similar arrangement with the United Kingdom last month. These agreements offer a basis for deeper military relations between Marcos and Kishida to stave off a common foe, according to experts.

Professor Narushige Michishita of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo stated that “The Philippines is a crucial security partner for Japan.” The Philippine Sea would become strategically significant in the event of a Taiwan Strait battle, he stressed.

Taiwan, which is located halfway between Japan and the Philippines, has become the focus of escalating Chinese military activities, which Tokyo and Washington fear may lead to war as Beijing tries to seize what it sees as a rebellious province.

A Japanese military presence in the Philippines may also aid Marcos in thwarting Chinese influence in the South China Sea, which Beijing vigorously asserts its sovereignty over and includes territory that Manila regards as its own.

Beijing has stated that its goals in the area are peaceful.

In the crucial waterway, which is used for $3 trillion in yearly ship-borne trade, Marcos has promised to hold onto every square inch of land.

According to Ken Jinbo, a professor at Japan’s Keio University who once served as a government security advisor, by obtaining access to bases in the Philippines, Japan would increase the reach of its armed forces, including surveillance planes that might scan the South China Sea.

As the United States now has access to Japan’s nine bases, he said, “one thing people are watching out for during President Marcos’ visit is whether Japan will agree to provide infrastructure assistance.”

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