The Philippine government is considering the request of the Japanese government to allow access of its aircraft and sea patrol assets to the Philippines naval and air bases in a bid to join the United States in conducting maritime air sea patrols in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea particularly in Spratly. This is in response to China’s increasingly assertive pursuit of territorial claims, according to a Japanese and a US source familiar with the discussions.
China’s reclamation work in the South China Sea has become the latest source of tension with some of its smaller neighbors, several of whom have competing territorial claims in the waters and it is time to act to stop this bullying and aggression.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said recently in the US. “We want to be a country that can contribute to peace and prosperity of the world.”
Japanese air patrols in an area where China is pushing disputed territorial claims, including though a massive program of land reclamation, would risk antagonizing Beijing.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Recent satellite images show China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in the Spratly Islands and may be planning another.
But defense officials in Tokyo worry that doing nothing would allow China to eventually impose its authority over a region through which $5 trillion of sea-borne trade passes every year – much of it heading to and from Japan.
“We have to show China that it doesn’t own the sea,” said the Japanese source.