Japan and the Philippines on Monday signed a highly anticipated visiting-forces agreement, paving the way for greater bilateral and multilateral defense cooperation amid escalating tensions between the two partners and Beijing in the disputed East and South China Seas.

The two U.S. allies signed the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) shortly after Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa and Defense Minister Minoru Kihara met with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The agreement, which still needs parliamentary approval, will enable larger and more complex joint military exercises and grant the Self-Defense Forces greater access to Philippine bases, potentially even enabling rotational deployments.