Japan and Philippines Sign Defense Agreement Amid Growing Tensions in South China Sea
Philippine Marine Corps push forward after splashing ashore in an amphibious assault vehicle during an exercise.
Image Credit: U.S. Marine Corps

Japan and Philippines Sign Defense Agreement Amid Growing Tensions in South China Sea


This Monday, Japan and the Philippines signed an agreement that will significantly boost defense cooperation between the two countries, including a new framework for the supply of military hardware and technology as well as provisions for joint research and development projects, AP reports.

In addition, the new pact outlines joint military training and the donation of used military equipment to the Philippines. This is the first time that Japan has signed such an agreement with a Southeast Asian country. (Japan had so far only signed similar defense pacts with Australia and the United States.)

The agreement was signed by Philippine Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin and the Japanese ambassador to the Philippines, Kazuhide Ishikawa, this Monday in Manila.

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“This agreement would really substantiate the Philippines and Japan being strategic partners,” Gazmin said, according to AP. “Let me stress that what underpins this agreement is not only our desire to enhance our respective defense capabilities but also to contribute to regional peace and stability.”

On the weekend, Gazmin, in an attempt to assuage China’s fears over the deepening defense ties between Tokyo and Manila, also emphasized that this new defense pact is “not directed against any country.” Neither Gazmin nor Ishikawa mentioned China by name during today’s signing ceremony at the Philippine Department of Defense.

According to a senior Philippine security official interviewed by AP, the agreement “opens the door to a lot of opportunities beyond the confines of mere equipment transfer or sale.”

Tokyo and Manila will hold a separate meeting to discuss details of what military hardware will be supplied by Japan to the Philippines. “They haven’t offered what we can buy,” Gazmin said. “There needs to be a wish list.” The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in particular are seeking to boost their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

In November 2015, Tokyo announced that it plans to transfer three used Beechcraft TC-90 King Air patrol planes fitted with basic surface and air surveillance radar to the AFP by the the fall of 2016. Both sides are also in talks over new P-3C Orions patrol aircraft. As my colleague Prashanth Parameswaran explained previously:

 The equipment will be in addition to previously announced moves, including the transfer of ten patrol boats to the Philippines announced back in 2013 confirmed to begin in 2016 (See: “Japan Wins New Philippine Defense Deal”). Both sides have also committed to exploring a visiting forces agreement that would give Tokyo access to Manila’s military facilities that the United States and Australia now enjoy (See: “Japan, Philippines Seeking New Pact on Military Bases”).

In 2016 the AFP intend to procure two frigates, two twin-engine long range patrol aircraft, three aerial surveillance radars, and the first two out of a total of 12 FA50 light fighter jets ordered from South Korea (See: “Philippines Push for Military Modernization in new Budget Proposal”).

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