Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ph-Japan VFA by Erick San Juan

Ph-Japan VFA by Erick San Juan

After the recently concluded state visit to Japan by President Benigno Aquino III, reports of a possible VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) with Japan is brewing on the basis of stronger security relationship of the two countries.

As reported at the manilastandardtoday.com - There was no mention of the VFA in the joint communiqué Aquino and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe released after their bilateral talks, but Aquino said the matter was discussed.

“It was discussed during our summit meeting with the Prime Minister that the relevant entities will start discussions, leading up to a Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said. “The Visiting Forces Agreement will have to be passed and approved by our Senate and we will be starting discussions.”

“We welcome this development. We have only two strategic partners, the US and Japan; and again, as I have stated previously, it does not behoove a good partnership or relationship if you are not able to work at the inoperability with the other,” Aquino added.

Aquino also noted that a VFA with Japan will have to be finalized before a more advanced version, like the EDCA, is considered.

“We have a Visiting Forces Agreement with America and with Australia, but we don’t have the same with Japan. That has first to be worked out before we can talk about training exercises in the Philippines, especially for [Japan’s] Self-Defense Forces,” he said.

Well, at least the mention of “the VFA (with Japan) will have to be passed and approved by our Senate” is a welcome idea unlike the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) with the US, which is still pending at the Supreme Court, the Senate has been demanding that the said treaty should have the approval of the Senators.

Like Japan, we also have territorial dispute with China which is why PNoy had to ink a treaty with Japan on security issues in the region.

Aquino’s four day visit to Tokyo clearly gave the strategic partnership a further boost. Both sides issued a joint declaration praising their ‘strengthened strategic partnership’ and issued an action plan to further it still. Advances on the security side of the relationship were focused on maritime security, which is no surprise considering common concerns about Chinese assertiveness at sea. Japan pledged to enhance the capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard, and the signing of a contract during Aquino’s visit between the Philippine government and the Japan Marine United Corporation for the acquisition of patrol vessels was evidence of progress in this regard. I hope that the 'other matters' discussed with Emperor Akihito was also fruitful.

More broadly, both countries also vowed to strengthen their security cooperation by concluding an agreement on the transfer of defense equipment and technology and expanding bilateral and multilateral trainings and exercises. The agreement on defense equipment is particularly notable since sources have suggested that P-3C patrol aircraft and other radar-related equipment could feature among potential export items in the future. This is also the second such pact that Tokyo has signed with a Southeast Asian state following one with Malaysia last month. (by Prashanth Parameswaran, June 05, 2015)

The mere fact that PNoy had an audience with the top officials in Japan, at the least he could have mentioned the issue on ‘comfort women’ where our country’s women together with South Korea and China, were victims during the Second World War.

Even the US with South Korea and China are awaiting the speech of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August on the 70th Anniversary on the end of World War II.

Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who authored Japan's landmark 1995 apology on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, said Abe should "honestly spell out" the country's wartime actions to address growing international concern that he may revise history.

Yohei Kono, who as chief Cabinet secretary in 1993 apologized to victims of Japan's wartime military sexual exploitation, said he wondered whether a new statement by Abe is even necessary. He said a statement to mark the 70th anniversary, if issued, should not backpedal from any of the apologies that Abe promised to inherit from nearly a dozen past leaders.

"The international community is watching what (Abe) is really thinking," Murayama told reporters during a rare joint appearance with Kono at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.

"It is important to clear any doubts that he has raised overseas," Murayama said.

The historic statements by both men were highly regarded internationally as signs Japan had come to terms with its wartime past and they improved relations with its Asian neighbors. However, both statements have become unpopular among Japanese conservatives who say Japan should stop focusing on negative history to restore national pride.

Kono warned that any attempt to whitewash historical facts "hurts the Japanese people's reputation." (Source: Associated Press by Mari Yamaguchi, June 9, 2015)

If Japan is truly for making stronger ties with its neighbours, its leaders should begin by making amends of the ghosts of the past.

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