After formalizing their enhanced strategic partnership deal which will include an exchange of military technology, both Japan and the Philippines lashed out at China for the latter’s ongoing reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.
In a joint statement, President Benigno Aquino III and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe blasted China for its dredging and creation of artificial islands which the United States says covers 800 hectares.
“Both countries reaffirm their strong commitments to ensuring maritime safety and security including in the [West Philippine] Sea, which is a vital element for peace and prosperity of the region,” both leaders said.
“Aquino and I share serious concern about large-scale land reclamation. We oppose any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo,” Abe added, and said he agreed with the Philippines’ position to resolve its dispute with China peacefully through adherence to international laws.
Leaders of both countries agreed that relations between Japan and the Philippines are at their warmest.
Earlier, Japan agreed to establish closer economic and military ties with the country, a bond which will include the export of military hardware and more joint drills.
According to analysts, the new agreement will mark the highest point in Japan’s relationship with a country it had once invaded in World War 2, an incident for which Emperor Akihito expressed his remorse while hosting Aquino at a palace banquet.
By contrast, Japan’s relations with China—a country it had also once occupied decades ago—has remained icy owing to Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s lack of direct talks in recent years.
Anti-Japanese sentiment is also still relatively high in China, and occasionally flares up whenever Japanese leaders downplay their country’s wartime atrocities.
Like the Philippines, Japan is also embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands which is currently under its administration.