JAPAN sent two F15 fighter jets Tuesday to the Philippine territory, the first time since Japan deployed combat-ready fighter planes to southeast Asia since World War II.
The two F15 fighter jets landed at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, the former military base of the US.
The visit coincided with the anniversary of the bombing of the Pearl Harbor, the air campaign that started the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941.
Eight decades later, the Philippines and Japan are now friends, and will soon forge a defense cooperation agreement.
“We will promote mutual understanding by unit-to-unit exchanges with the Philippine Air Force and develop #DefenseCooperation and exchanges,” the Japan Air Self-Defense Force said in its Facebook post.
Relatedly, a Japanese destroyer, JS Harusame, also sailed at Subic Bay last week and held “simple maneuvering” naval exercises with Philippine Navy’s BRP Conrado Yap.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) announced the “goodwill exercise” between JS Harusame and BRP Conrado Yap as part of efforts for “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
The increasing visits of Japanese military to the Philippines forms efforts of both countries to step up defense cooperation in the midst of growing regional challenges, especially tensions in the West Philippine Sea.
Defense Secretary Jose Faustino Jr. said Manila and Tokyo are now exploring having a defense agreement similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement the country had earlier forged with its American counterpart.
Faustino said the proposed defense agreement is designed to facilitate joint exercises with Japanese forces, but which can not be carried out unless a defense pact is signed between the two countries.
“Japan and the Philippines would like to have a VFA in order for the Japanese troops to conduct exercises in the Philippines. Right now they cannot and they are just observers, or we just have to conduct humanitarian exercises,” he said.
Such a pact with the Philippines will help Japan in easing restrictions on the transportation of weapons and supplies for joint training and disaster relief operations.
Filipino and American troops have regularly conducted joint training exercises in the country under the VFA. Japan, however, could not join in actual combat training operations in the absence of such a treaty with the Philippines.
Faustino, however, was quick to point out that the treaty was not meant to single out its defense against China.
“You know, the agreements that we conduct with other countries, with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the US, this is not directed towards another country, it’s multi-lateral, bilateral or mini-lateral relationship, these are like-minded countries and we’d like to maintain that. These are our allies,” he said. With reports from Froi Garces
photos courtesy: Japan Air Self-Defense Force; Japan Maritime Defense Force