The Philippines will be getting a small fleet of brand new Japanese patrol ships with which to try to counter China’s attempts to change the facts on the water (as it were). The Wall Street Journal reports:
On Thursday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who is on a state visit to Japan this week, signed a deal with a Japanese shipbuilder to buy a fleet of 10 patrol vessels. Tokyo will provide a low-interest loan worth ¥19 billion ($150 million) to pay for the ships, marking a significant shift in Japan’s foreign aid program focused until now on infrastructure projects.
The purchase of the 44-meter boats from Tokyo-based Japan Marine United will sharply enhance the capacity of the Philippines’ Coast Guard, which has been under pressure from increased Chinese activities in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, at the highest level, Japan and the Philippines started to hammer out a visiting forces agreement that might see Japanese troops (like U.S. troops) being able to be based in Filipino territory. ABS CBN News has more:
The Philippines and Japan agreed to start discussions for a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that may allow Japanese forces to use Philippine bases to stop by or refuel on a rotational basis.
Answering a question from the Japan National Press Club, Aquino said that entering into a VFA with Japan was discussed in his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Thursday and that discussions would start to iron out the details.
We’ve been tracking how China’s aggression in the East and South China Seas has been provoking opponents and giving them a mutual enemy against whom to work together. When China backed relatively off the Senkaku dispute with Japan in the East China Sea, focusing instead on territory claimed by weaker powers like Malaysia, Vietnam, and yes, the Philippines, it may have been betting that Japan would stop caring about its territorial aggression. That’s not what happened. This story is just the latest sign that this anti-China coalition is becoming a reality, and growing teeth.