Japan, Philippines hold first 2-plus-2 security talks

Japan, Philippines hold first 2-plus-2 security talks

Left to right: Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Japan’s Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi pose during a meeting at the Iikura Guest House in Tokyo on Saturday. (Photo: AFP)

The foreign and defence ministers of Japan and the Philippines are holding their first “two-plus-two” security dialogue Saturday in which they are expected to express “serious concern” over the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region.

The ministers are also likely to agree to boost bilateral security cooperation in a joint statement to be released after the talks in Tokyo, according to Japanese government sources.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and their respective Philippine counterparts Teodoro Locsin and Delfin Lorenzana are attending. The meeting will be followed by a press conference.

As China demonstrates growing maritime assertiveness and moves to increase its clout in the region, Tokyo and Manila are likely to aim to step up efforts to establish peace and stability to realize a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, as advocated by Japan and the United States.

China has routinely sent ships to the East China Sea to navigate waters near the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls Diaoyu. Beijing is also involved in a territorial dispute with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations over the South China Sea.

The talks come as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fuels fears China could be emboldened to further intensify its military activities in the Indo-Pacific region, while North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile launch last month has renewed focus on its increasing missile and nuclear threat.

The four ministers are also expected to pledge to promote cooperation in economic security such as by strengthening supply chains to stably procure vital products, the sources said.

The talks came after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte agreed last November to launch the two-plus-two dialogue during phone talks.

Kishida met with Locsin and Lorenzana on Friday in Tokyo and voiced his hope the nations could work together to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific. In a veiled reference to China, the three also opposed any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East and South China seas.

The Philippines is the second Southeast Asian nation to have a two-plus-two meeting with Japan, following Indonesia.

Besides the Philippines, Japan has held two-plus-two security talks with the United States, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, India, Indonesia and Russia.