The Philippines and Japan are ready to start negotiations for letting Japan use Philippine islands for its military aircraft and naval vessels to refuel in order to allow them to extend their range of operation in the disputed South China Sea, said Philippine President Benigno Aquino said on Friday.
China's rapid reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed other claimants, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, and has drawn growing criticism from the Japanese government, disturbing them on China’s expanding influence in the region.
Aquino’s remarks came during a press conference in Tokyo at the end of his four-day state visit to Japan.
He said the agreement would clear the way for the Japanese military to use his country’s bases on a rotational basis, naming the agreement “Visiting Forces Agreement.”
The Philippines’ visit comes amid the two countries deepening their security ties in need for allies against China’s reclamation in the disputed waters, which also concerns the United States.
The US administration announced last week that it will continue to patrol waters and skies of the long-disputed South China Sea on which the Chinese navy has repeatedly warned US surveillance plane to leave the airspace over the islands.
Beijing even went further late in April and warned the US that “war is inevitable if the Washington doesn’t step back.”
The US moves to patrol the South China Sea airspace synchronically with territorial waters came as Beijing was preparing to declare an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area.
The US officials and experts see that the Chinese act to declare ADIZ is likely to happen soon above the South China Sea through which China will also be able to control aerial security.
China, on the other hand, said it has the right to engage in monitoring in the relevant airspace and waters to protect the country's sovereignty and prevent accidents at sea.
China’s efforts to redefine its territorial waters were increased last year when Beijing commenced the building of seven artificial islands near the Spratly islands where coastal states in the South China Sea have severely objected to Chinese maritime expansion.