Japan, Philippines hold first ‘two plus two’ security talks

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

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

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and their respective Filipino counterparts, Teodoro Locsin and Delfin Lorenzana, are expected. The meeting will be followed by a press conference.

As China demonstrates growing maritime assertiveness and moves to increase its influence in the region, Tokyo and Manila will likely aim to intensify their efforts to establish peace and stability in order to achieve a “free and open”, as advocated by Japan and the United States.

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

The talks come as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stokes fears that China could be encouraged to further step up its military activities in the Indo-Pacific region, while North Korea’s launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles last month brought renewed attention to its growing missile and nuclear threat.

The four ministers are also expected to pledge to promote economic security cooperation, including strengthening supply chains to secure stable supplies of vital commodities, the sources said.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte agreed last November to launch the two plus two dialogue.

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

The Philippines are the second Southeast Asian country to have a two plus two encounter with Japan, after Indonesia.

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

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