Japan ready to provide Philippines security needs
(The Philippine Star) – May 29, 2019 – 12:00am
TOKYO – Japan is ready to provide the Philippines with its security needs to help keep the South China Sea open for the free passage of ships and goods, the Philippines’ ambassador to Japan said yesterday.
At a press conference here, Ambassador Jose Laurel V said Tokyo acknowledges the importance of the Philippines’ geographical location in the free movement of goods in the region.
“When they (Japanese) go south, what is the first country they will reach there? The Philippines. So Japan is a trading country. It survives on selling manufactured goods to the world. They have to keep the shipping lanes open,” Laurel said.
“So their only way out is towards the south, keep the east Indian Ocean alive and get to Europe. If they want to get to the (US), then they have to travel towards the west coast of the United States,” he added.
The Philippines is embroiled in a longstanding maritime row with China over land features in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of goods pass every year.
Laurel noted that Japan is surrounded by countries with which it is not on fully friendly terms: North Korea in the north, Russia in the northeast and China in the west.
“You must remember that because we are very intimate friends, Japan greatly also depends on the Philippines,” he said.
Laurel said that given such reality, Japan would always be ready to help the Philippines regarding security matters.
“Japan will support the Philippines in its needs, particularly in security,” he said, noting that the East Asian country has agreed to provide 10 coast guard ships and other defense assets to Manila.
“That is why among others, Japan is very important not only to the Philippines. But other countries also depend on them,” he added.
Like the Philippines, Japan also has a maritime dispute with China, specifically over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Manila and Tokyo have consistently called for a peaceful and rules-based resolution to territorial and maritime disputes in the region.
Japan is also concerned about piracy in the Malacca Strait and Sulu Sea which may hamper the free flow of goods, Laurel said. If the risks remain, insurers would demand higher premiums from companies shipping goods, which in turn would raise prices.
“So it is also to the interest of Japan that he supports us and vice versa. All of this is interrelated… the talks have to be done,” Laurel said.
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