Manila backs rearmed Japan to balance PRC
AFP and Reuters
December 11, 2012, 12:00 am TWN
MANILA -- The Philippines would support Japan dropping its pacifist constitution to become a fully fledged military force and act as a balance against a rising China, a government spokesman said Monday.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines would strongly support a rearmed Japan — its World War II foe — as a counterweight to what it sees as Chinese provocation.
"We are looking for balancing factors in the region and Japan could be a significant balancing factor," he told the paper amid growing tensions over the South China Sea, almost all of which is claimed by China.
Foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez confirmed the government's view that Japan should upgrade its military from a self defense force so that it has more freedom to operate in the region.
"(Del Rosario) said we are in favor of Japan's gaining strength," Hernandez told AFP.
Japan occupied the Philippines for more than three years from December 1941, during which suspected guerrillas were tortured and executed, and some local women forced into prostitution to serve the occupying army.
The war claimed at least a million civilian Philippine lives, according to historians.
The newspaper interview comes shortly before a general election in Japan where the front-runner, opposition leader Shinzo Abe, has said he wants to revise the country's pacifist constitution, imposed by the U.S. after the war.
Asked about the Philippine comments on Japan as a balancing force, China's foreign ministry said the idea of "containment" was out of date.
"Now it's no longer the era of the Cold War. The issue of one country containing another one does not exist," spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing.
Another Philippine foreign ministry official said Manila does not share the concerns of some others in the region of Japan's military past because it has shown in the years since World War II that it has become a democratic and responsible member of the international community.
Japan will hold a general election on Dec. 16 that is expected to be won by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
LDP leader Shinzo Abe has promised to loosen limits on the military in Japan's pacifist constitution and stand up to China over disputed isles in the East China Sea.
China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of its neighbors. These areas include major sea lanes and are believed to hold vast mineral and oil resources.
China's claim is contested by the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, which have overlapping claims to some or all of those same areas.
In April, Chinese patrol vessels prevented the Philippine Navy from arresting a group of Chinese fishermen at the Scarborough Shoal, which is close to the main Philippine island of Luzon and which Manila says is part of its territory.
Manila says China has continued to station patrol vessels in the area even after the Philippines withdrew its vessels and called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute according to international law.