Foreign Affairs
Japan’s Expanding Regional Influence: Kishida’s Potential Visit to Philippines and Implications for South China Sea

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is planning to visit the Philippines and Malaysia in early November to boost security cooperation amid rising tensions between China and the Philippines over South China Sea issues.

Kishida is set to visit the Philippines and Malaysia for a bilateral visit to strengthen security and defense cooperation, as the Philippines faces China’s push to challenge its legitimate rights and interests. This is his first visit to these Southeast Asian countries since October 2021.

Additionally, from December 16, Kishida is scheduled to preside over a gathering in Tokyo to commemorate 50 years of friendship and cooperation between Japan and the ASEAN region. The trip is expected to help address China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan is actively playing the role of the US pawn in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University.

He believes that showing loyalty to the US is the most advantageous way for Japan to bolster its influence by relying on Washington.

Japan wants to play a leading role in shaping the Asia-Pacific security order, although the East Asian island country is not independent in its security. This is to realize its military ambition, which is currently restricted by Japan’s pacifist constitution.

Japan is likely to express support for the Philippines on South China Sea issues when Kishida visits the Southeast Asia country, aiming to manipulate international opinion and increase pressure on China.

The China Coast Guard (CCG) expelled a Philippine Navy gunboat that intruded into waters off China’s Huangyan Dao in the South China Sea, marking a possible escalation of ongoing tensions between China and the Philippines.

The Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama 2023, the seventh and largest iteration of the drills, is the seventh and largest iteration with participants from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, the UK, and Malaysia joining the US and the Philippines.

This rare move with external forces joining the exercise could become normalized in the future, according to Da. The US-led allies colluding to create regional tensions and spread the “China threat” theory could lead to more conflict.

If the US and its allies continue to view and deal with China and Asia-Pacific regional issues with their old colonial and hegemonic thought, they may face a high price.

ASEAN regionChinaJapanJapan's Expanding Regional Influence: Kishida's Potential Visit to Philippines and Implications for South China SeaPhilippinesSouth China SeaSoutheast Asia