Philippines, Japan in talks for joint military exercise: Navy officials

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 29 2019 03:32 PM

The Japanese Navy destroyer Ikazuchi docks at the Manila port, Jan. 29, 2019. ABS-CBN News

The Japanese Navy destroyer Ikazuchi docks at the Manila port, Jan. 29, 2019. ABS-CBN News

The Japanese Navy destroyer Ikazuchi docks at the Manila port, Jan. 29, 2019. ABS-CBN News

The Japanese Navy destroyer Ikazuchi docks at the Manila port, Jan. 29, 2019. ABS-CBN News

The Japanese Navy destroyer Ikazuchi docks at the Manila port, Jan. 29, 2019. ABS-CBN News

The Japanese Navy destroyer Ikazuchi docks at the Manila port, Jan. 29, 2019. ABS-CBN News

The Japanese Navy destroyer Ikazuchi docks at the Manila port, Jan. 29, 2019. ABS-CBN News

The Japanese Navy destroyer Ikazuchi docks at the Manila port, Jan. 29, 2019. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Manila and Tokyo are mulling joint naval exercises in a bid to boost defense ties and enhance regional stability, military officials said Tuesday, as a Japanese destroyer docked in the Philippine capital. 

Once at war, the 2 Pacific nations are looking to take their bilateral relationship "to the next level,” said Capt. Mardonio Navarro of the Philippine Navy.
 
A joint military exercise will improve ties and "contribute to the regional stability," added Capt. Ryoko Azuma, commander of the Japanese Escort Division One. 

Azuma led the contingent that brought Japanese destroyer JS Ikazuchi to Manila on a 3-day goodwill visit, which includes a coordination meeting with the Philippine military. 

Both the Philippines and Japan are locked in maritime disputes with China. 

Beijing and Tokyo claim ownership of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. 

China also claims most of the South China and has built bases on reefs and shoals it reclaimed despite partial claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. 

A UN-backed tribunal, acting on a Philippine plea, invalidated Beijing's sweeping claims over the strategic waterway that has rich fishing grounds, as well as oil and gas deposits. 

Duterte has, however, set aside the ruling, seeking instead loans and investments from China, as he pivoted away from US, a traditional ally, following the previous American administration's criticism of his deadly anti-narcotics drive. 

Japan's visit and meetings with the Philippine Navy has nothing to do with China, said Azuma. 

“[We have] no specific message to any nation. Japan is now committed to the vision of freedom and opening of the Pacific," he said. 

"Japan and Philippines share a core value that emphasized free and open ocean based on rules of international law and freedom of navigation," he added. 

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's latest goodwill visit is the first for this year and the eighth since 2016. 

On board the Japanese destroyer are 220 crew members. The ship carries 2 patrol helicopters. 

Philippine and Japanese Navy officials were set to stage pre-coordination meetings and a shipboard tour.

The Japanese contingent will head back to Japan on Thursday.
 
With a report from Reuters