Following the signing of an agreement last week providing the United States increased access to its military outposts, Marcos paid his first visit on Wednesday. Additionally, it comes after the Philippine president informed his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, during a visit to Beijing last month that the Philippines would pursue an autonomous foreign policy.
In a press conference last week, Neil Imperial, the Philippines’ assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs, stated that Marcos’ goal in Japan was to “promote tighter defence, security, political, economic and people-to-people ties.”
That sentiment is shared in Tokyo, which has been deepening security ties with nations that view China with concern.
“As the United States deepens its relationship with the Philippines, it’s important for regional security that Japan join in,” a Japanese defence ministry told the Reuters news agency. He asked not to be identified because he is not authorised to talk to the media.
In a pre-departure speech on Wednesday, Marcos said he would cultivate “complementary interests” which “converge with those of Japan”.
“My bilateral visit to Japan is essential and is part of a larger foreign policy agenda to forge closer political ties, stronger defence, and security cooperation, as well as lasting economic partnerships with major countries in the region amid a challenging global environment,” he said.
Taiwan, which lies between Japan and the Philippines, has become a focal point of intensifying Chinese military activity that Tokyo and Washington worry could escalate into war as Beijing tries to capture what it views as a rogue province.
A Japanese military presence in the Philippines could also help Marcos counter Chinese influence in the South China Sea, much of which Beijing claims, including territory that Manila considers its own.
Marcos has promised not to lose an inch of territory in the strategic waterway, through which $3 trillion in ship-borne trade passes annually.
Beijing has said its intentions in the region are peaceful.