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Tuesday, March 1, 2016, 10:02

Japan signs defense supply pact with Philippines

By Agencies

Japan signs defense supply pact with Philippines
Japan's Emperor Akihito (left) shakes hands with Philippine President Benigno Aquino before the start of their meeting inside the presidential palace in Manila on Jan 27, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / ROMEO RANOCO)

MANILA, Philippines - Japan signed an agreement Monday to supply defense equipment to the Philippines, the first such Japanese defense pact in the region.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the agreement he signed with the Japanese ambassador to Manila, Kazuhide Ishikawa, provides a framework for the supply of defense equipment and technology and will allow the Asian countries to carry out joint research and development projects.

Future talks will determine what defense equipment could be supplied, although Gazmin told reporters without elaborating that Japan has initially offered a surveillance aircraft.

"This agreement would really substantiate the Philippines and Japan being strategic partners," Gazmin said in remarks during the signing ceremony at the Department of Defense in metropolitan Manila. "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."

The Philippines has turned to the United States, and now Japan, as it scrambles to modernize its ill-equipped military.

The Philippines' security aspirations dovetail with Japan's nascent steps to be a larger security presence in the region, where memories remain of its brutal World War II invasions.

The two countries have openly brought their security and political ties to new levels, including by holding joint naval search and rescue drills last year.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have swapped visits and vowed to intensify defense cooperation, sparking talks about a possible security pact that will allow Japanese forces to hold larger drills with Filipino troops in the Philippines. The Philippines has signed such visiting forces accords with the United States and Australia.

Last year, Japan's parliament approved contentious legislation that enhances the role of the country's military by loosening post-World War II constraints. Its military can now defend its allies even when the country isn't under attack and work more closely with other nations.

Japan has forged similar pacts with the US and Australia, but the Philippines is the first Southeast Asian country to have such a defense deal with Tokyo, Gazmin said.

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