Fumio Kishida, Japan’s Prime Minister, arrived in the Philippines on Friday for a two-day official visit aimed at strengthening defense and security cooperation at a time of increased tension between the Philippines and China.
Kishida will visit President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the presidential palace to discuss a variety of problems, including the South China Sea, which has seen many clashes between Manila and Beijing.
“Among the specific issues to be discussed are the West Philippine Sea, trade and investment, and Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA),” Marcos’ office said ahead of Kishida’s visit.
“They will also exchange views on major regional, international, and United Nations issues affecting the region and the world.”
Japan does not have any claim to the waters, but has a separate maritime dispute with China in the East China Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea and its growing military presence there has fuelled concern in Japan and the West, with the United States holding regular air and naval patrols to ensure freedom of navigation.
Ahead of the visit, the Japan defence ministry announced the delivery of the first air surveillance radar system to the Philippine military as part of a 2020 contract between the Philippines’ defence department and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
In February, Marcos and Kishida agreed in Tokyo that their militaries would cooperate in disaster relief, an agreement seen as a step towards a broader pact that could allow the countries to deploy forces on each other’s soil.
Following that meeting, Marcos said he saw no reason why the Philippines should not have a troop pact with Japan if it would boost maritime security.
On Saturday, Kishida will speak before the Philippine Congress.