By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA – Two Japanese destroyers, JS Izumo and JS Samidare, are in Manila for a goodwill visit after capping a quadrilateral drills with the Philippines, United States and Australia in the South China Sea on Thursday.
In a reception aboard the JS Izumo on Sunday night, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhiko Koshikawa said the visit reflects Tokyo’s strong commitment in strengthening maritime security cooperation in the region.
“Now more than ever, stronger cooperation among like-minded nations is vital to preserving stability and peace in the world,” he said.
“We must firmly stand together to defend and strengthen a free and open international order — one that is disciplined and guided by rules, respecting the law to the benefit of nations, large and small,” he added.
Japan, the Philippines, Australia and the United States conducted replenishment-at-sea and photo exercise (PHOTOEX) during the drills on Aug. 24.
The undertaking follows the first-ever Japan-Australia-Philippines-US Defense Ministerial Meeting held in Singapore last June.
“This very meeting has resulted in this significant moment of defense and maritime cooperation wherein brave and skilled navies from Japan, the US, Australia and the Philippines joined together and conducted maritime exercises in the South China Sea,” Koshikawa said.
According to the Japanese Embassy in Manila, the exercises were held in Philippine “territorial waters”.
Also participating in the drills were the US Navy’s littoral combat ship Mobile, the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Canberra and HMAS Anzac, the Royal Australian Air Force F-35A fighter jets and the Philippine Navy’s BRP Davao Del Sur.
Earlier this month, the four countries raised concern over the water cannoning of Philippine boats that attempted to resupply the beached BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, a feature within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone that is also being claimed by China.
In his speech, Koshikawa emphasized that “peace and international order cannot be maintained if military superpowers ignore international law and try to achieve their own claims by force”.
“Each country has its own claims. However, disputes between states must be settled peacefully through international law and the arbitration procedures established thereunder. Even if the outcome of the arbitration is unfavorable to the major powers,” he said.
JS Izumo and JS Samidare will be in Manila until Aug. 31 to strengthen relations with the Philippine Navy.
The two vessels will return to Japan after the Indo-Pacific Deployment 2023 in September.
JS Izumo is docked at the Manila South Harbor while JS Samidare is anchored about 30 minutes away from the capital.
Alongside the Japanese ship, also docked in Manila are USS America and Australia’s Canberra. (PNA)