Japan: No joint patrol talks yet in South China Sea with PH, US

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 9) — The Japanese Embassy on Tuesday said no official discussions have been made with the Philippines and the United States yet regarding possible joint patrols in the South China Sea.

Japan made the clarification when asked by CNN Philippines on its possible participation in the Philippine-US joint patrols which, according to Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez, could possibly start in the third quarter of 2023.

"There is no specific plan or discussion of 'joint patrols,' but Japan and the Philippines have been closely working together to reinforce Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) and maritime law enforcement for the stability of the South China Sea," the embassy said in a statement.

Japan said it is willing to take part in trilateral dialogues with the Philippines and the US, especially on defense policies.

"Japan is committed to further enhancement of defense exchanges through trilateral dialogues like the Japan-Philippines-US Trilateral Defense Policy Dialogue, and participation of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in Philippines-US joint exercises," the embassy said.

In the joint statement of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and US President Joe Biden last week, both leaders expressed the importance of working with regional partners.

"They look forward to establishing trilateral modes of cooperation among the Philippines, Japan, and the United States, as well as the Philippines, Australia, and the United States," the statement read.

Australia has yet to issue its statement on possible joint patrols or any progress on the trilateral cooperation with Manila and Washington.

PH-US joint patrols to start in third quarter? US embassy says talks still ongoing

The US Embassy neither confirmed nor denied the possible resumption of PH-US joint patrols in the third quarter of this year but emphasized that talks about combined maritime exercises are still ongoing.

"Our conversations on combined maritime activities with the Philippines are continuing, and our planners are working hard on specific issues such as timing, assets, and logistics," US Embassy spokesperson Kanishka Gangopadhyay told CNN Philippines.

"The goal of any combined maritime activities would be to support the Philippines exercising its lawful sovereign maritime rights under international law," he added.

Expert: Joint patrols 'risky,' need to be transparent to avoid miscalculations, provocations

For international relations experts and president of the Philippine Society for Intelligence and Security Studies (PSISS) Rommel Banlaoi, the joint patrols between the Philippines and the US could be risky if the scope of the activities are not transparent.

"It will be taken negatively by other parties, especially if it will be conducted in the South China Sea or in the West Philippine Sea. So, it will raise the risk of possible misunderstanding and it can also raise another tension in the South China Sea, but it depends on how the Philippines and the United States will be transparent in the conduct of that during patrols," Banlaoi told CNN Philippines.

Banlaoi also urged Manila and Washington to make sure that maritime patrols would not run contrary to the draft of the South China Sea Code of Conduct which limits the conduct of such activities.

"Doing patrols shall also be consistent with the ongoing negotiations on the code of conduct in the South China Sea," Banlaoi added.