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Pacific Rim Defense Chiefs Express Serious Maritime Concerns, Citing China; Coordinated support promised for the Philippines


The Yomiuri Shimbun
From left to right, the defense leaders of the United States, Australia, Japan and the Philippines attend a joint news conference Thursday at the United States Pacific Command in Hawaii.

HONOLULU – Defense chiefs from Japan, the United States, Australia and the Philippines expressed serious concerns in a joint statement about China’s “repeated obstruction of freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea.

The four defense chiefs – Defense Secretary Minoru Kihara, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Australian Defense Secretary Richard Marles and Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. – issued the statement after Austin hosted defense chiefs at the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii. Thursday.

The meeting, the second of the four countries’ defense chiefs after a meeting in Singapore last June, lasted about an hour.

In the joint statement, the four shared “serious concerns about the situation in the East and South China Seas.” They also reaffirmed a policy of expanding the four countries’ joint exercises, saying they would “further promote defense cooperation.”

Regarding increased activity in the South China Sea by the vessels of China’s coast guard and maritime militia, a paramilitary group made up of Chinese veterans and fishermen, the four defense chiefs said they “strongly object to the dangerous use [of such vessels].”

After the meeting, a joint press conference was held by the defense chiefs, which did not take place at the previous meeting.

At the press conference, Kihara said the four countries are united and will continue to engage with the international community on realizing a rules-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“We have a clear view of the challenges that exist across the region,” Austin said. “We’re going to have to continue to work together, increase interoperability, make sure we share information and intelligence.”

Kihara also met individually with Austin and Marles in bilateral talks, and there was a meeting of trilateral defense chiefs for Japan, the United States and Australia.

At the Japanese-U.S. Defense Ministers’ meeting, the two sides said they would continue discussions on improving the command and control frameworks of the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military forces stationed in Japan, as agreed at the Japan-U.S. peak in April. .

Philippines support

“We are gathered here because we share a vision for peace, stability and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific,” Austin emphasized at the press conference.

During the meeting, the four defense chiefs reaffirmed that the Philippines would receive coordinated security assistance. The four countries held a joint maritime exercise in April and the joint activities are expected to take place in waters close to the South China Sea, over which the Philippines and China have a territorial dispute. Tensions have increased in the area due to actions such as the use of water cannons by Chinese Coast Guard vessels against Philippine vessels.

Defense cooperation between the four countries is developing rapidly to deter China. Japan and Australia signed a mutual access agreement last year that will facilitate exchanges between the Self-Defense Forces and the Australian Armed Forces.

Negotiations are also underway for a similar agreement between Japan and the Philippines. The agreements are expected to allow for more multilateral and large-scale exercises, a senior US official said.

By strengthening its support for the Philippines, Japan hopes to demonstrate its determination to prevent China from changing the status quo in the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

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