Philippines, Japan to Talk Security - WSJ.com Japan and the Philippines, both facing intensifying territorial disputes with China, are exploring ways to deepen military and security ties. Philippine leader Benigno Aquino, right, met Monday in Ishinomaki with the city's mayor, Hiroshi Kameyama.. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who will meet Tuesday in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, told reporters last week that he would raise security issues, seeking Mr. Noda's backing in disputes over competing claims between Beijing and neighbors in the South China Sea. A senior official in Mr. Noda's office said in an interview Monday that the two leaders "may explore" more frequent joint coast-guard exercises, and more frequent consultations between naval officials. "There is room to deepen our ties in terms of promoting such cooperation," said the official, adding that there is a "shared view between the Japanese and the Philippine governments regarding the importance of sharing the peaceful navigation and peaceful use of the sea." Separately this week in Tokyo, the Japanese government is hosting a two-day meeting of Southeast Asian defense officials on "common security tasks," including sessions on "security issues and resource issues" and "efforts to strengthen maritime security in the region." Japan's defense minister will give the opening remarks Wednesday. Officials from 10 countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, are expected to attend. Any new commitments from the Japanese side for the Philippines are expected to be mainly symbolic, in what has been a prolonged process to bolster security ties. Earlier this month, official bilateral "consultations" to enhance maritime cooperation took place in Tokyoâ€”the first since the two sides agreed to talks in December 2006. There have also been a handful of military drills involving both Japan and the Philippines in recent years. The South China Sea, which geologists believe lies atop significant oil and gas reserves, has long been the site of low-level skirmishes between rival claimants, but in recent months tensions have worsened. The governments of Vietnam and the Philippines have accused China of hindering oil exploration in their territorial watersâ€”accusations that Beijing denies. Beijing was enraged two years ago when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to Vietnam, spoke in support of multiparty talks to resolve disputes over the South China Sea. While countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines are working toward creating a more unified standâ€”and have successfully enlisted the support of Washington in thisâ€”China prefers to negotiate individually with the other claimants. Japan has been more reluctant than the U.S. to side with Southeast Asian nations in countering China, but people familiar with the situation say that Tokyo may be weighing whether to follow the U.S. by pressing for a series of multilateral talks to settle the patchwork of competing claims in the region. Security analysts say the Philippines appears to be doing much of the legwork in organizing a joint strategy to counter China's rising influence. After visiting China in early September, President Aquino then flew to the U.S. "Mr. Aquino is setting the pace," said Carlyle Thayer, an expert on South China Sea at the Australian Defence Force Academy at the University of New South Wales. The South China Sea contains some of the world's most heavily used shipping highways, and both the U.S. and Japanese economies depend on its remaining open for navigation. Around 90% of Japan's oil supply is shipped from the Middle East through the South China Sea. The sea is claimed in whole by China but key areas are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. Japan has a territorial headache of its own with China, over an archipelago in the East China Sea known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands and in China as Diaoyu. On Sunday, a Chinese research boat spotted in the contentious waters turned around after Japanese Coast Guard officials issued a warning. Japan's Coast Guard said 14 Chinese boats, including fishing and research trawlers, have entered Japanese waters near the disputed island chain since a collision between Japanese patrol boats and a Chinese fishing trawler in the same area brought bilateral relations to a low a year ago. That is more than twice the rate of reported incidents as before the clash. More recently, China bristled when Japan's annual defense white paper described Beijing's attitude toward its neighbors as "assertive" in August. China's Defense Ministry expressed "strong opposition" to the report.