China hits Philippines for seeking Japan’s help

Paterno Esmaquel II
Having suffered two wars with Japan, China is also cautious about giving the Japanese army the 'international role' that the Philippines supports

BOOSTING TIES. Philippine President Benigno Aquino (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) attend a joint news conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan on June 24, 2014. Photo by Yuya Shino/Pool/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – China criticized the Philippines on Wednesday, June 25, after the Southeast Asian country supported a proposal to revise the Japanese constitution to allow Japan to help its allies when under attack.

An Asian giant that twice went into war with Japan, China was also cautious about giving Japan’s army an international role.

In a media briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the Philippines and Japan should not worsen tensions, as the two countries bolstered ties in the face of an increasingly aggressive China.

Hua said: “It is our opinion that relevant countries should show sincerity and move toward the same direction with China, rather than deliberately stir up tension and bring additional complicated factors to the regional situation. We hope that interactions between countries concerned can inject positive energy to the maintaining of regional peace and stability and play a constructive role, not the opposite.”

Hua noted that Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, in his visit to Japan on Tuesday, June 24, supported Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan “to promote the international influence” of the Japanese army. 

During his visit to Japan, Aquino said of his country’s strategic partner: “We believe that nations of good will 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.”

JAPAN VS CHINA. A file picture dated April 27, 2005 shows an aerial view of Uotsuri Island, one of the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. File photo by Hiroya Shimoji/EPA

Aquino’s statement came as both Manila and Tokyo remain embroiled in territorial and maritime disputes with Beijing.

The Philippines is challenging China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea, while Japan is competing with China over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea.

Philippines, China: Victims of Japan

Reacting to Aquino’s message, China voiced a “common concern” about the Japanese military.

“Due to historical reasons, China pays close attention to Japan’s policy changes concerning military security, which also raise common concern from its Asian neighbors and the international community,” Hua said.

China, after all, suffered two wars with Japan – the first Sino-Japanese War from 1894 to 1895, and the second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945. During the second Sino-Japanese War alone, Japanese soldiers killed 100,000 to 300,000 Chinese in the Nanjing massacre.

The Philippines also once suffered in Japan’s hands. Up to a million Filipinos died during World War II largely because of Japan.

Japan eventually reformed itself after World War II, and implemented a pacifist constitution that renounces war.

Charter change by 2020?

Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan states, “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

“In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized,” the constitutional provision adds.

CONTROVERSIAL VISIT. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo on December 26, 2013. Photo by Toru Tamanaka/AFP

Explaining Article 9, the Japanese Defense Ministry noted that under international law, “there is recognition that a state has the right of collective self-defense, that is, the right to use armed strength to stop armed attack on a foreign country with which it has close relations, although the state is not under direct attack.”

“It is beyond doubt that as a sovereign state, Japan has the right of collective self-defense under international law,” the Japanese Defense Ministry said in a briefer.

“It is, however, not permissible to use the right, that is, to stop armed attack on another country with armed strength, although Japan is not under direct attack, since it exceeds the limit of use of armed strength as permitted under Article 9 of the Constitution,” it added.

Abe believes it is time to change this. He wants to revise the Japanese constitution by 2020 to expand his country’s military beyond self-defense. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at