Japan and the Philippines strengthen military ties


The two are exchanging air force planes to demonstrate their defense cooperation.

Japan and the Philippines strengthen military ties

A Japanese F-15 fighter jet taking part in the “Pareho-22” exchange with the Philippine Air Force, Dec. 2022.

Two Japanese fighter jets landed at the Clark Air Base in the Philippines for the first time since World War II as Manila and Tokyo strengthened military cooperation amid China’s increased assertiveness in the region.

The F-15s from the 305th Squadron of the 5th Air Wing arrived Tuesday as part of an exchange between the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the Philippine Air Force to “deepen mutual understanding and strengthen the defense cooperation,” according to JASDF.

The unit-to-unit exchange is called “Pareho-22” after the Tagalog word that means “together,” it said.

Gen. Izutsu Shunji, JASDF Chief of Staff, also visited Heroes Cemetery near Manila on Tuesday in a highly symbolic gesture as it is where tens of thousands of Filipinos who died in WWII are buried.

Imperial Japan occupied the Philippines between 1942-1945. Clark Air Base, located north of Manila in Luzon, served as a main center for Japan’s air force operations but in the final months of WWII it was occupied by Philippine and U.S. forces.

Kyodo news agency quoted Philippine Air Force commanding general, Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas, as saying he welcomed the first visit by Japan’s fighter jets to the Philippines since the war, adding that the Japanese “are now our allies” who believe in the rule of law.

Lt. Col. Shotaro Arisawa from JASDF was quoted as saying the F-15s arrival “marked a milestone in the history of defense exchanges of Japan and the Philippines.”

Manila has been embroiled in a long-standing territorial dispute with Beijing and some other parties in the South China Sea, where China claims almost 90% of the area.

China’s increased activities and the militarization of its artificial islands there have heightened tensions in the disputed waters. 

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. agreed in September that the two countries would make efforts to boost security cooperation, calling it a “priority” area.

During the meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Kishida said “the international community needs to oppose unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East and South China Sea, as well as economic coercion.”

Japan is part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, commonly known as the Quad, which also includes Australia, India and the U.S. 

Beijing has repeatedly accused the Quad of being an attempt to establish a NATO-like alliance in the Asia-Pacific.

Japan has been the Philippines’ top source of official development assistance in the past two decades.

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