Defense Minister Gen Nakatani plans to meet with his Philippine counterpart, Voltaire Gazmin, possibly as soon as April to beef up security ties amid China’s increasing maritime assertiveness, according to a government source.
Nakatani may discuss Japan providing TC-90 training aircraft to the Philippines that can be used to conduct surveillance in the South China Sea, where China and the Philippines have competing territorial claims, the source said Tuesday.
The two ministers are also expected to discuss expanding joint exercises between the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Philippine Navy as well as Japanese support measures for other facets of the Philippine military, the source said.
Nakatani will also convey Japanese support for Manila’s efforts to settle its territorial disputes with China through a case brought by Manila before an arbitration tribunal in the Netherlands under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The visit, which may take place during the Golden Week holidays from late April to early May, would follow up on a broad agreement reached in November by Japan and the Philippines for an accord covering the transfer of defense equipment and technology.
Tokyo has signed a similar pact with India, which Nakatani is also considering visiting in April or later.
He plans to meet with the Indian defense chief, Manohar Parrikar, to discuss the possibility of India purchasing US-2 amphibious aircraft.
In a major shift in Japan’s postwar security policy, the Abe administration passed security legislation last September with the aim of expanding the scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ activities abroad.
Since the enactment of the legislation, Nakatani has visited Hawaii, Australia, South Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation.