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International relations

Japan, Philippines to hold 1st '2-plus-2' security talks on Saturday

Tokyo meeting comes as worries mount over China's influence in region

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Japan's ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold their joint press statement at Abe's official residence in Tokyo in 2019.   © Reuters

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and the Philippines will hold their first ministerial security talks on Saturday in Tokyo to enhance cooperation in countering China's increasing maritime assertiveness in the South and East China seas, Japan Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Tuesday.

The so-called two-plus-two talks involving the countries' foreign and defense ministers come as the Philippines faces overlapping territorial claims with Beijing in the South China Sea. China also has been routinely sending ships to the East China Sea to waters near the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls Diaoyu.

"We would like to further bolster our cooperation with the Philippines, which has great significance [for Japan] in terms of security," Kishi told a regular news conference.

The two-plus-two talks with the Philippines will be the second with a Southeast Asian country following those with Indonesia.

During the visit to Tokyo, the Philippines' Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will also hold separate individual talks with their Japanese counterparts, meeting Kishi on Thursday and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Saturday.

A government source has described the Philippines as a "strategic point for security" given its geographical location, as China flexes its muscles beyond what Beijing views as the "first island chain."

The first island chain is a defense line drawn by China off the east coast running in an area that includes Japan's Okinawa, Taiwan and the Philippines. The Senkaku Islands fall within the chain.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to launch the two-plus-two meetings during phone talks in November.

Besides the Philippines, Japan has formed a two-plus-two framework with the U.S., Australia, Britain, France, Germany, India, Indonesia and Russia.

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