MANILA, Philippines – Amid China’s increasing aggressiveness in the region, Philippine defense officials are hoping to discuss with their Japanese counterparts the possible sharing of military technology and assets when President Benigno Aquino III makes a state visit to Japan next week.
“We will bring up the topic with Japanese officials,” said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin who will also be part of Aquino’s entourage in the four-day visit.
He declined to specify what kind of assets would be haggled.
“We’re still ironing those out [but there will be an] exchange of technology, personnel, and eventually transfer of assets and equipment,” he said, while adding they are also planning to invite more often Japan’s Self-Defense Forces for drills in the future.
Japan and the Philippines conducted a joint naval training session for the first time two weeks ago.
However, Gazmin also ruled out the inking of a defense treaty with Japan just yet; saying such a move would be too premature.
“The time is not ripe,” he said. “Even our defense treaty with Australia took 14 years to materialize.”
China, the Philippines, and several Southeast Asian countries are currently embroiled in a dispute over the resource-rich West Philippine Sea which is also one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
China claims the entire area, creating friction with its rival claimants who each have overlapping claims.
Just like its ASEAN neighbors, Japan is also involved in a long-running territorial dispute with its giant Asian neighbor.
China, Japan, and Taiwan are squabbling over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands (called Diaoyu Islands) located in the East China Sea and which is currently under Japanese administration.
The dispute was most highlighted in 2013 when Beijing established an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) which encompassed the islands.
Since then, tensions have continued to increase between the two powers, with analysts foreseeing a war in the near future.