Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (right) shakes hands with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Feb 9, 2023. (PHOTO / POOL / AFP)
TOKYO - Japan said it was looking to strengthen joint military exercises with the Philippines as the two US allies on Thursday pledged to forge closer security ties.
The maritime nations also penned a deal to allow their armed forces to work together during disaster relief operations, an agreement seen as a step towards a broader pact that could allow both countries to deploy forces on each other's soil.
The disaster relief deal with Tokyo is seen as a possible precursor to establishing a visiting forces agreement that would allow Japanese forces to deploy to the Philippines more easily
"In this year of complex international situations, Japan attaches great importance to cooperation with the Philippines," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in his opening remarks at a meeting with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr in Tokyo.
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Kishida later said the two had agreed to try and establish a framework that would "strengthen and smooth the process of holding joint exercises".
Japan held joint military exercises with the United States and the Philippines as recently as October.
President Marcos, on his first visit to Japan since taking office in July, last week signed an agreement granting the United States greater access to its military bases.
The disaster relief deal with Tokyo is seen as a possible precursor to establishing a visiting forces agreement that would allow Japanese forces to deploy to the Philippines more easily.
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Tokyo has such pacts with Australia and Britain, and also hosts the biggest concentration of US forces abroad.
"After our meeting, I can confidently say that our strategic partnership is stronger than ever as we navigate together the rough waters buffeting our region," Marcos said, adding he had agreed to cooperate more closely with Japan on areas including defence cooperation and maritime security.
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