In the Philippines upon the invitation of Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera was warmly received at the Department of National Defense (DND) on 27 June 2013.

In their bilateral dialogue, the two ministers highlighted the increasing high-level and working-level engagements between the Philippines and Japan, information, and education and training exchange. The Philippines and Japan signed a Defense Cooperation and Exchanges arrangement in July 2012. Both ministers also acknowledged the importance of enhancing links between the Philippines and Japan on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and maritime security.

Both sides also exchanged views on regional issues, specifically on the current situation in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), East China Sea, and Korean Peninsula. On the WPS issue, Minister Onodera expressed support for a peaceful resolution of the dispute based on international law specifically the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The two ministers hoped that the regional Code of Conduct (COC) being crafted by ASEAN and China will soon be finalized to ensure that the commitments under the DOC are implemented.

Meanwhile, Secretary Gazmin expressed his concern over the increasing tensions in the East China Sea. It could be recalled that China recently declared that Okinawa is part of China’s territory and a Chinese Navy frigate locked its weapon targeting a radar on a Japanese ship in January 2013. On the Korean Peninsula issue, Secretary Gazmin and Minister Onodera expressed support for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks (SPT) and underscored that dialogues on denuclearization should be premised on North Korea’s sincere commitment to resolve the issue.

The dialogue served as an excellent opportunity for the Philippines and Japan to review their defense and security relations and find ways to further enhance their relationship to effectively meet contemporary issues of mutual concern. The two ministers agreed to enhance the existing cooperative activities, such as more training and educational exchanges on peacekeeping, HADR, military medicine, among others.