Date
26 September 2017
Cadets from Japan's National Defense Academy go through their paces. Japan's pacifist constitution prohibits military buildup beyond national defense. Photo: Bloomberg
Cadets from Japan's National Defense Academy go through their paces. Japan's pacifist constitution prohibits military buildup beyond national defense. Photo: Bloomberg

Tokyo-Manila dance: Watch your step

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so goes the saying.

But if that’s all there is to a stronger bond between the Philippines and Japan, it had better be for reasons other than their mutual dislike of China.

Tokyo and Manila are on the same side of a historical argument with Beijing over disputed territories in the East and South China seas – Japan over the Senkakus and the Philippines over the Paracels and certain shoals.

Let’s forget for a while that China has been a bully and is largely responsible for ratcheting up tensions in the region. There’s no evidence it’s gearing up for war.

By contrast, Japan’s recent posturing is specifically aimed at “reinterpreting” its constitution which forbids it from engaging in military build-up beyond national defense.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III just nudged Japan toward its nascent military objective during a recent visit to Tokyo.

And that is a problem because Japan’s bigger mission is not only to defend itself and its territories but to fight alongside its allies.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and yes, the Philippines, have outstanding territorial issues with China but none has tied them to a military objective.

Before we see a Japan and a China that are on equal war footing that will force peaceful countries in the region to take sides, we’d better watch what we wish for.

We might get it.

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RA/SK

EJ Insight contributor

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