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Philippines' Marcos in Japan for talks with PM Kishida

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. arrives to attend the APEC Leader's Informal Dialogue with Guests during the APEC summit in Bangkok, Thailand, on Nov. 18, 2022. (Rungroj Yongrit/Pool Photo via AP, File)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is in Tokyo for talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida later Thursday to affirm deeper economic and security cooperation amid China's growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

    During planned talks at the prime minister's office, Kishida is expected to pledge the provision of a support package to the Philippines for infrastructure development, Japanese government sources said.

    The two leaders are also likely to agree to continue their countries' "two-plus-two" security talks involving their defense and foreign ministers, the sources said.

    The first two-plus-two meeting held in Tokyo last April saw Tokyo and Manila agreeing to work toward signing a treaty facilitating joint exercises and reciprocal visits of their forces to one another's countries under the Reciprocal Access Agreement. Japan has signed a similar pact with Australia and the United Kingdom.

    Marcos' visit to Japan, his first since taking office in June, has drawn public attention as it came immediately after his government deported four Japanese men suspected of being involved in a high-profile string of robberies across Japan.

    The Philippine leader's five-day trip from Wednesday is also politically important as Tokyo and Washington are seeking to deepen ties with Manila due to China's increasing military and economic clout in the region, experts said.

    A change in the leadership in Manila has encouraged Tokyo and Washington to accelerate plans to improve relations, they said, noting that Marcos' predecessor Rodrigo Duterte had sought closer ties with Beijing.

    Last week, Marcos and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin agreed to allow American troops access to four more bases in the Southeast Asian nation in an effort to keep in check China's increasingly assertive actions over disputed territory in the South China Sea and toward Taiwan.

    China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, a maritime area rich in natural resources that also serves as a critical trade route.

    Regarding Taiwan, fears are mounting that the self-ruled island democracy could become a military flashpoint in the region, as Communist-led China regards it as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

    Meanwhile, China has also sought to further strengthen relations with the Philippines, with President Xi Jinping pledging to invest about $22 billion in the country, including projects that are already under way, when Marcos visited Beijing in January.

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