The Philippines hopes to sign in the first quarter of the year an agreement with Japan allowing the deployment of military forces on each other's soil, Manila's defense minister said Tuesday.

The Philippines is strengthening its ties with neighbors and other countries to counter what it calls an increasingly aggressive Beijing in the South China Sea.

The Philippines and Canada are also working on a memorandum of understanding for enhanced defense cooperation, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro told reporters on the sidelines of a cybersecurity forum.