MANILA – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to visit the Philippines this year, his top diplomat in Manila said Friday as the two states seek to bolster defense and security cooperation.

“It is expected that, by the end of this year, Prime Minister Kishida will visit the Philippines to forge even closer ties and lasting partnerships,” Japanese Ambassador Kazuhiko Koshikawa said during a reception for the 69th anniversary of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) in Makati.

He said Japan also looks forward to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s participation in the 50th ASEAN-Japan Friendship anniversary celebration in Tokyo this December.

The envoy said cooperation between Manila and Tokyo has “tremendously flourished” since the start of the Marcos administration, especially in the field of defense and security.

Citing developments that threaten the international order, such as the war in Ukraine and tensions over the Taiwan Strait, Koshikawa said Japan would push for a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and partner with Manila in realizing it.

“With the swiftly changing tides in the global environment, the defense and security cooperation between Japan and the Philippines is becoming all the more significant. We are directing all our focus in generating concrete measures that would further deepen our defense partnership,” he said.

Kishida and Marcos met during the latter’s official visit to Tokyo in February 2023, where the Terms of Reference on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) activities of the JSDF in the Philippines was signed.

The two states are also enhancing their partnership with the US, with their coast guards having conducted the first-ever joint trilateral exercise this year.

The first Japan-Australia-Philippines-US Defense Ministerial Meeting was also held last month in Singapore, signaling “growing synergy among like-minded nations at all levels.” (PNA)