Philippines Backs Rearmed Japan to Counter China


The Philippines would strongly support Japan dropping its pacifist constitution to become a fully-fledged military force, said a government spokesperson on Monday. The call is largely seen as a counterbalance to China’s growing military assertiveness over disputed oil claims in the South China Sea.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario said the Philippines would strongly support a rearmed Japan as a counterweight to the growing assertiveness and military provocations by China.

"We are looking for balancing factors in the region and Japan could be a significant balancing factor," he told the FT amid growing tensions over the South China Sea, almost all of which is claimed by China.

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Foreign department spokesperson Raul Hernandez confirmed the government’s official position in an interview with the AFP and said it was in favour of Japan upgrading its military from a self-defence force to a fully-fledged military, a move that would allow it more freedom to operate and could possibly alter the balance of power in Asia.

The interviews come shortly before a general election in Japan where the race front-runner, opposition leader Shinzo Abe, has promised to loosen limits on the military in Japan’s pacifist constitution, imposed by the US after the Second World War, and stand up to China over similar disputes in the East China Sea.

Support from Asian nations, the Philippines in this instance, could hasten any constitutional amendments.

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The possibility of rich, undersea oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea has led to rising tensions between neighbouring states as the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia have also lodged partial territorial claims to the disputed waters.

In July, the International Crisis Group said that prospects of solving the disputes "seem to be diminishing" and warned that the competing claims could escalate into armed conflict. 

Adding to the tensions, Beijing has started issuing passports containing a map of its “nine-dash” claim to almost the entire South China Sea, a move that sparked diplomatic flare-ups from around the region.

The Philippines has refused to stamp the new passports in protest, opting instead stamp a separate visa application form.

Del Rosario told the FT:

The Philippines has contended all along that the nine-dash claim is an excessive claim that violates international law.

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