Aquino backs larger Japan military role

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

TOKYO -- President Benigno Aquino III endorsed Tuesday Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role.

Aquino, after meeting with Abe, expressed his support for Abe's proposal to reinterpret Japan's pacifist constitution to allow its military to defend not only Japan but also allies that come under attack.

"We believe that nations of goodwill can only benefit if the Japanese government is empowered to assist others and is allowed the wherewithal to come to the aid of those in need, especially in the area of collective self-defense," he told reporters at a joint news conference.

Japan and Philippines
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, left, and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend a joint news conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo)

Abe's ruling party is in the midst of tough negotiations with its coalition partner over Abe's proposal to reinterpret the Japanese constitution to allow what is known as collective self-defense.

The Japanese military can currently only use force to defend Japan.

Aquino also acknowledged the devastation the Philippines suffered at Japanese hands, but said his country's relations with Japan have been marked by trust and unfailing support in the years since.

"We do not view with alarm any proposal to revisit the Japanese constitution if the Japanese people so decide," he said, “especially if this enhances Japan's ability to address its international obligations and brings us closer to the attainment of our shared goals."

Aquino's support comes as Japan and the Philippines deepen security ties in the face of China's military expansion and territorial disputes both countries have with China in the South and East China seas.

Neither Aquino nor Abe mentioned China by name, but both referred to the changing security environment.

China's rise is a potential challenge to American dominance in the Pacific, and control of vital shipping routes as well as potential undersea oil and natural gas.

China has criticized Japan's push for collective self-defense, warning against the return of the Japanese militarism that wreaked havoc across much of Asia before and during World War II. (AP)

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