Abe should stress importance of US-Philippines alliance: think-tank
TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should raise the importance of the alliance of the United States and the Philippines, and the rule of law in the South China Sea when he meets Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a Japanese think-tank said on Tuesday.
Ken Jimbo, senior research fellow of Tokyo-based Canon Institute for Global Studies, said these two issues have a significant impact on Japan.
"You know, our officials must emphasize two things, that is the importance of US-Philippine alliance and also the importance of the rule of law in South China Sea," he said.
"And we'd like to firmly commit to those two principles, (which) should be the basis of the Philippine-Japan strategic relationship," he stressed.
During his recent state visit to China, Duterte declared Philippines' "separation" from the United States, its strategic ally.
But upon returning to the Philippines, Duterte explained that separation was not cutting ties with America, but distancing from the US as far as the military and economic matters are concerned.
Duterte did not assert the July ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the award to the Philippines invalidating Beijing's nine-dash line in the South China Sea.
The nine-dash line practically covers almost the entire area, including those within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of other countries, like the Philippines.
Duterte has said he wants a "soft landing" of the Philippines’ relationship with China.
He added the Philippines intends to rely more on China in trade and commerce.
Jimbo, an associate professor of Faculty of Policy Management of Keio University, believed China sees a "great opportunity" with the Duterte administration "because they have been deadlocked by arbitration ruling in July and only breakthrough that they can think about is to gain a deal bilaterally with Philippines."
"But one of the fundamental issues at stake is whether the Philippines is entering to the negotiation on the basis of the final result of the court ruling or accepting in Chinese term that there should be shelving any of the result made by the court ruling to strike a deal in parallel manner, which is you don't consider the ruling for the sake of negotiation," he said.
"And for that case, it seems to be for outside observers, the Philippines is not honoring or respecting the final result of the ruling even if the Philippines is the main player on this," he explained.
Asked of the possible effect if Duterte would shelve the arbitration ruling, Jimbo said "temporarily" it would lower the tension between the Philippines and China.
"But in the midterm and longer term, what we should respect is the rule of law and institutional management and the Code of Conduct which is a multilateral negotiation between Asean and China," he said. He added all statements should also be based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, other related international laws, and "one of the most important benchmarks is the arbitration ruling."
He said Tokyo should continue with its defense assistance to the Philippines.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Japan and other countries should not be worried with Duterte's pivot to China.
"We are all neighbors in Asia, we should befriend our neighbors," he said.
On Japan's non-issuance of comment over alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines involving drug suspects, Jimbo said, "I think we will raise concern but whether we should raise the concern on the same scale of the United States and the EU, this should be considered."
"A political choice that we can make because we know that the President has his own, you know, orientation."
Duterte apparently became irked with the US and the EU when they raised concern over the increasing number of the drug suspects in his war against the drug menace. Over 3,500 drug suspects have been killed since Duterte assumed office. Celerina Monte/DMS