A closer look at a move that has been subject to much speculation.
On February 10, Japan and the Philippines held the fifth iteration of their defense vice-ministerial dialogue (See: “ What’s Next For Japan-Philippines Relations Under Duterte? ”). Though a range of issues were discussed, the one that made the headlines was talk of Japan joining in ongoing efforts by the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia to undertake trilateral patrols to counter piracy and terrorism in their surrounding waters.
Officially, according to a statement released by the Philippine defense ministry following the meeting, Japan’s Vice-Minister for International Trade Ro Manabe “expressed Japan’s readiness to contribute in the trilateral cooperation among the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia in addressing piracy and terrorism.” Manabe also “requested the Philippines to convey how Japan could best assist in curbing piracy and kidnapping in the three countries’ shared maritime areas.”
Capacity-building would certainly be more along the lines of what Japan has already been doing with Southeast Asian states including the Philippines. Tokyo has already provided a range of defense equipment to Manila, including patrol vessels and maritime surveillance aircraft, and additional assistance along these lines had already been discussed. Some of this, such as the multi-role response vessels (MRRVs) the Philippine Coast Guard has received from Japan through the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project, have already been used to fight terrorism and piracy.
Region-wise, as I have noted before, Japan is also considering other ASEAN-wide defense initiatives, as outlined in its Vientiane Vision last year (See: “ Japan Reveals First ASEAN Defense Initiative with Vientiane Vision ”).

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