Japanese foreign minister in Manila as Tokyo looks to strengthen ties in SE Asia

Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu will meet with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila today to discuss a budding economic

Philippine Japanese Friendship Tower

Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu will meet with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila today to discuss a budding economic and defence relationship amid growing Chinese influence in the region.

Tensions in the South China Sea have recently flared again. China has an ongoing spat with Indonesia regarding sovereignty over the Natuna Islands, and Indonesia claims that the presence of Chinese vessels in the surrounding waters is a violation of international law.

While China and the Philippines have had a warming relationship over the last two years, exemplified by Duterte’s embrace of the Belt and Road Initiative, Japan also considers the Philippines to be a strategic partner with regards to defence and trade. Tokyo has sought to capitalise on Beijing’s spat with Jakarta by trying to levy Southeast Asian support against Chinese adventurism in the South and East China seas.

Expect an agreement between Japan and other ASEAN states that champions a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific maritime region to be on the horizon during this visit. Furthermore, expect Japan to continue pledging aid to the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries as it has done in the past couple of years.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe and Toshimitsu will continue their tour of Southeast Asian states, including Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, as they try to bolster regional security in light of increased Chinese maritime presence.

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