PH, US, Japan eye close collaboration to boost security

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 30) — The Philippines, United States, and Japan committed to collaborate closely to boost security, a Japanese defense official said on CNN Philippines’ Politics as Usual.

During his visit to Manila, Japan Maritime Self-Defense commander-in-chief Vice Admiral Saito Akira told CNN Philippines’ Politics as Usual that he met with U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral Karl Thomas and Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Renato David.

“At the meeting, we, the three commanders, agree that we would cooperate closely in the future of our security,” Saito told CNN Philippines during a tour of Japan’s multi-purpose operation destroyer JS Izumo.

“We, three countries, can have exercises together and also more exchanges. Also, through the exercises, we can invite Philippine Navy personnel to participate in our exercise as an observer,” he added.

Saito and Thomas paid a courtesy call to Philippine Navy (PN) chief Vice Admiral Torino Adaci Jr. on Sunday. The PN said discussions focused on collaboration in training and capability development that will be “mutually beneficial.”

On China’s role in the evolving geopolitics, Saito noted the significance of improving defense posture within legal boundaries.

“I believe that we’ll have to enhance our defense capability within the scope of our constitution and our laws and regulations… And of course, we could also cooperate with the United States as an ally for our security,” he said.

Aside from JS Izumo, amphibious assault ship USS America and Australian landing helicopter dock ship HMAS Canberra are also in the country for port visits.

The visits come following the water cannon incident in the West Philippine Sea. On Aug. 5, the China Coast Guard fired water cannon on Philippine vessels en route to Ayungin Shoal for a resupply mission.

Saito expressed great concern on the water cannon incident.

“We have to think about what we can respond to such dangerous act,” he said.

On joint maritime patrols, Saito said he sees it as a “very good idea” but he did not say whether Japan is open to holding joint patrols with the Philippines.

“In Japan, the government is now making careful consideration about what we can do in the future,” he added.

Manila is ironing out details of its joint patrols with Washington and Canberra in the West Philippine Sea amid Beijing’s aggressions in the disputed waters.

In May, the Japanese embassy said there were no official discussions with the Philippines and the United States on possible joint patrols in the South China Sea.