Philippines a strategic regional partner: Japan minister

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has underscored the Philippines' role as Japan's strategic partner in the Asia-Pacific as he called for a deeper relationship between the two countries amid the challenges facing the region.

In a message to Filipinos released ahead of his arrival in Manila today, Kishida affirmed Japan's commitment to supporting the Philippines' development through stronger defence, economic and humanitarian ties.

"Our strategic partnership is in great progress, and I hope to further deepen our cooperation in such areas as the economy, maritime cooperation, peace in Mindanao and response to natural disasters, among others," he said.

Kishida's Philippine visit is the first leg of a week-long Asia-Pacific tour that includes Singapore, Brunei and Australia. It is his first overseas trip since becoming foreign minister on December 26 under Japan's new leadership.

He visited the country in July 2008 as Japan's then Minister for Science and Technology Policy.

In his message, Kishida cited the importance of Japan's Asian neighbours, particularly the Philippines, in advancing the security alliance between Japan and the United States, a partnership seen to balance the power setup in the region in the face of China's rise as a major military power.

"Currently, the strategic environment of the Asia-Pacific region continues to change significantly. Japan, as a responsible democracy, will play a proactive role in the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region," he said.

"I believe that it is important to strengthen the Japan-US alliance and deepen collaboration with neighbouring countries which are developing under freedom, democracy and market economy," he said.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier expressed his support for the rearming of pacifist Japan, a complete shift in dynamics between two countries that were enemies in World War II.

Del Rosario reaffirmed this view Wednesday, saying "a stronger Japan would be a balancing force and could contribute in a great way to stability in the region."

Japan has become an important defence partner of the Philippines and is finalising a loan agreement for the Philippines' procurement of 10 multi-role response vessels for the Coast Guard. This will be one of the matters that will be discussed in Del Rosario's meeting with Kishida Thursday.

"Japan attaches importance to the enhancement of the maritime security capabilities of the Philippines, and does not begrudge it of assistance and cooperation for that purpose," Kishida said.

Del Rosario said the meeting this morning will also cover the territorial disputes that the Philippines and Japan have with China. The Philippines has conflicting claims with China over territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) while Japan has been asserting ownership over islands in the East China Sea.

Japan is the Philippines' biggest trading partner, with total bilateral trade amounting to US$12.68 billion from January to September 2012.

Kishida said Japan was keen to tap the Philippines' labour force for its industries and also participate in infrastructure development in Metro Manila.

  • Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day 11 hours ago
    Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day

    If there's one car that's particularly sought-after among today's well-heeled car collectors, a Ferrari 250 would be it. Usually it's the GTO variant, like the 1963 that sold for a record $52 million last year. A 250 of any sorts demands unfathomable cash, however, which is why we can but gawk at this 250 Testa Rossa. It's as close as any mere mortal will ever come to owning one.

  • Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners 11 hours ago
    Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners

    Buyers of Ferraris or Jaguars are used to perks from manufacturers – including racetrack lessons to help master their exotic machines. But for enthusiasts on a tighter budget, the Ford ST Octane Academy might be the sweetest deal in motoring: Buy a Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST hatchback, and the reward is a free day of training at one of America’s longest, most-lavish road courses.

  • Why you can't buy America's greenest car 15 hours ago
    Why you can't buy America's greenest car

    Ask me or any auto expert what's the fastest car you can buy for any given amount, and we could easily cough up several options. Same for most luxurious, or off-roadable, or any other measurement. Yet there's one type of question that's far harder to answer: What's the greenest, most environmentally friendly car you can buy today?

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • David Moyes statement after Man United firing
    David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    Statement released by David Moyes on Wednesday, a day after Manchester United announced he left as manager after less than a season in charge.

  • McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania
    McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.