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 yesterday.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Philippine 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.
Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs 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 said.
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 1 million civilian Philippine lives, according to historians.
The newspaper interview comes shortly before a general election in Japan where the front-runner, Japanese opposition leader and former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, has said he wants to revise the country’s pacifist constitution, imposed by the US after the war.
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 Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia 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 (Huangyan Island, 黃岩島), 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.