Japan eyes naval exercises with Philippines

Kyodo News

Posted at Feb 24 2015 07:20 PM | Updated as of Feb 25 2015 03:20 AM

MANILA - The commander of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force arrived in the Philippines on Monday for a four-day visit that includes meetings with defense and military officials, and a scheduled tour at a military camp close to the South China Sea, officials said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, public affairs officer of the Philippine military, said Adm. Tomohisa Takei first met with Lt. Gen. Virgilio Doming, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, on Tuesday morning and they "discussed concerns on maritime domain awareness and challenges" in the South China Sea.

Like the Philippines on the South China Sea, Japan is embroiled in territorial disputes with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

"They also expressed mutual interests in conducting bilateral naval exercises and disaster response operations in the future," Cabunoc said.

Takei later met with Philippine Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta and with Philippine Navy chief Vice Adm. Jesus Millan.

According to Millan, Takei's visit is aimed at exploring "possible navy-to-navy interactions under the framework of the new memorandum on defense cooperation and exchanges between" the defense ministries of the Philippines and Japan signed in late January.

"What we discussed are more on future interactions to develop our capacity and capability, more on training, ship visits and technical assistance or consultations," Millan said.

They also tackled their participation in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium that the Philippine Navy will host in April 2015 in Manila, as well as their promotion of cooperation in maritime security using the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.

Millan said he also thanked Takei for the help and prompt assistance of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to the Philippines after it was struck by super typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.

On Wednesday, Takei is scheduled to visit Philippine military camps on the central Philippine island of Palawan close to the South China Sea, where a number of reefs, atolls, shoals and islets are hotly contested by the Philippines and China, as well as Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Sources said Takei will go to the Armed Forces Western Command in the island's Puerto Princesa City, the Philippine Naval Forces Western Command in Ulugan Bay facing the South China Sea, and nearby Oyster Bay where another Navy facility is being developed.

Takei will end his Philippine visit on Thursday.

Japan is one of two strategic partners of the Philippines. The other is the United States.