The Japanese and Philippine governments are considering negotiations on a new bilateral treaty to boost security cooperation and facilitate joint drills, diplomatic sources said Wednesday, amid China's growing military activities in the Indo-Pacific region.
During their scheduled early November summit in the Philippines, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. are expected to greenlight negotiations for a "reciprocal access agreement," facilitating the presence of visiting forces, according to sources.
It would be Japan's first RAA with a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the third following the agreements with Australia and Britain that took effect earlier this year, respectively.
Negotiators from both sides are set to delve into the intricacies of the treaty by the end of this year, aiming to sign it as early as next year, according to the sources.
At the summit, Kishida and Marcos are expected to pledge to step up joint military exercises by the two nations, in a move that would further promote trilateral security cooperation also involving the United States.
In the face of China's territorial claims in the East and South China seas, Japan and the Philippines aim to enhance deterrence through regular joint training exercises with the United States, the sources said.
RAAs are intended to facilitate transfers of defense personnel between countries for training and disaster relief operations while relaxing restrictions on the transportation of weapons and supplies.
Japan has conducted similar defense cooperation with the United States under the Status of Forces Agreement signed in 1960.
Japan and the Philippines agreed in April last year, when their foreign and defense ministers met, to "start considering ways to further enhance and facilitate" defense cooperation, including frameworks for reciprocal visits and logistical support.
The two governments have already signed a memorandum to simplify necessary procedures to dispatch defense personnel to each other's country for disaster relief activities and humanitarian assistance.
Kishida and Marcos will also likely talk about Japan's delivery of defense equipment to the Philippines under a framework of official security assistance set up in April this year, the sources said.
Among other issues, additional provision of large patrol vessels from Japan to the Philippine Coast Guard may be brought up at the summit, said the sources. Tokyo gave Manila two such vessels last year.
During his visit, Kishida also plans to address Philippine legislators to call for stronger bilateral ties, the sources said.