On Monday, 8th June, Philippine defence minister Gilberto Teodoro and Japanese foreign minister Yoko Kamikawa signed a bilateral Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), which allows for further cooperation and coordination between the armed forces of the two countries. This includes training exercises as well as increased access to equipment for visiting forces.

The RAA represents growing defence cooperation among the countries of the Asia Pacific region. This suggests that Japan and the Philippines, both of the United States’ strongest allies in Asia, are drawing a firm line against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. China has claimed the entire maritime region, but has been contested in many areas by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.

While Japan does not have a direct stake in the South China Sea, it is embroiled in a separate issue with China related to sovereignty of certain islands in the East China Sea, where clashes between the two countries have been regular. Since 2023, Japan has strengthened its defence and military ties with other nations as a result of concern stemming from these issues; this has included pressure on Taiwan and trade agreements. Along with this latest agreement, Japan also has RAAs with Australia and Britain, and hosts a large number of United States forces. Tokyo is also in the process of similar negotiations with France.

After a major incident on June 17th, the Philippines has also sought to strengthen its stake in the region. The Philippines already has Visiting Forces Agreements (VFAs) with the United States of America and Australia.

Latest agreement between the two countries marks a breakthrough in regional defence cooperation, and is a cause of concern for China. Ultimately, this further reflects the United States’ ‘ironclad commitment’ to Japan and the Philippines, and allows for further cooperation in the region with the involvement of global powers.

Sources: The Washington Post, Reuters

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