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Envoy: Phl-Japan ties a strategic partnership

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine-Japan relations, given the “depth and width” of exchanges between the two countries, are worthy of a “strategic partnership,” according to Japan’s top diplomat in the country.

Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe conveyed his optimism over the continuous warm and dynamic relations between the two countries as he led the celebration of the 59th anniversary of Japan Self-Defense Forces Day by hosting a reception at his residence on Thursday.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, who visited Manila for bilateral security talks last week, was supposed to deliver a speech during the reception, but left for a Cabinet meeting in Tokyo.

Urabe said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Onodera have agreed to further strengthen cooperation in areas such as disaster relief and personnel exchanges.

“Indeed, our relationship based on common values and shared interest is developing continuously,” Urabe said in his speech.

He noted that aside from Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Manila in January, there have been maritime consultations, discussions on the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement and the Mindanao peace negotiations and politico-military talks between the two countries in the past six months.

“The depth and width of our exchange is truly worthy of a ‘strategic partnership’ declared during President Aquino’s visit to Japan two years ago,” he said.

Japan has pledged to strengthen its strategic defense partnership with the Philippines, particularly on maritime affairs, as both governments expressed concern over China’s moves to stake its claims over disputed waters.

Onodera said China’s contentious claim to nearly all of the South China Sea and its territorial dispute with Japan in the East China Sea were discussed during top-level talks in Manila.

During Del Rosario’s courtesy call on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last month, the regional situation and the maritime security challenges faced by the two countries were also discussed.

Abe manifested the Japanese government’s support for the Philippines’ initiation of arbitral proceedings, pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, in its bid to clarify maritime zones and entitlements in the South China Sea.

Del Rosario expressed the Philippines’ appreciation for Japan’s stance, stressing the crucial role of international law in attaining a durable resolution to international disputes based on a level-playing field.

He also briefed Abe on the Philippines’ parallel pursuit of diplomatic and political avenues to address maritime concerns.

Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are commemorating the 40th anniversary of Japan-ASEAN friendship. Japan was the first non-member dialogue partner of ASEAN.

“We are proud of the role we played in the steady development and maturing of ASEAN all through these years,” Urabe said.

DEFENSE SECRETARY VOLTAIRE GAZMIN AND ONODERA

DEL ROSARIO

DURING DEL ROSARIO

EAST CHINA SEA

FOREIGN MINISTER FUMIO KISHIDA

JAPAN

JAPAN AND THE ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

JAPAN SELF-DEFENSE FORCES DAY

SOUTH CHINA SEA

URABE

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