Japan and Singapore will start negotiations to reach a deal on the transfer of defense equipment and technology, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Saturday after meeting with his Singapore counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong.

The envisaged pact would be the 13th of its kind for Japan, underlining Tokyo's efforts to forge closer security cooperation with Singapore and realize a "free and open" Indo-Pacific as China's rise is heightening regional concerns.

Japan sees its relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as crucial in safeguarding the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific and the rules-based international order.