MANILA – The Philippines, United States and Japan have agreed over the weekend to increase combined maritime activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) amid “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion.”
National Security Adviser Eduardo Año and his counterparts, Jake Sullivan of the United States and Takeo Akiba of Japan, made the announcement in Tokyo on Friday after their first trilateral meeting.
In their joint statement, the three officials made no mention of China, but it came ahead of US State Secretary Antony Blinken’s arrival in Beijing on Sunday amid increasingly frosty relations between the world’s two largest economies. (See related story in World, Page A7)
The coast guards of the three countries held their first joint exercises in the West Philippine Sea early this month, and the three security officials “reaffirmed the importance of such activities” during the meeting.
The three countries held their first quadrilateral defense ministerial meeting with Australia earlier this month on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
They also agreed to improve the Philippines’ maritime domain awareness through efforts including Japan’s new “Official Security Assistance” cooperation framework and the Quad’s Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness.
The three allies will also strengthen efforts in the area of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, according to the statement.
More trilateral exchanges
In addition, the three officials also agreed to convene more trilateral exchanges over the next months to further expand cooperation and information sharing. Washington and Tokyo are not claimants in the South China Sea but they have repeatedly expressed concerns over China’s muscle flexing in the region, including the West Philippine Sea and Taiwan.
Beijing has expressed concern over the Philippine-US agreement to renew security cooperation by allowing US access to military facilities in the Cagayan Valley region, less than 926 kilometers (500 nautical miles) from Taiwan.
China said it has not ruled out seizing Taiwan by force and has conducted military drills twice since August near the self-governing democracy, in response to top US lawmakers’ actions.
The United States is obliged to help defend Taiwan under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which superseded the US-Taiwan Mutual Defense Treaty of 1955. INQ
Source : AsiaNews