PH, Japan to discuss 'transfer of military assets'
CAVITE CITY, Philippines – Philippine and Japanese defense officials will discuss during President Benigno Aquino III's trip to Tokyo next week the possible transfer of military assets to the Philippines. (READ: Japan, PH renew vow to strengthen maritime security cooperation)
"Pinag-uusapan ng grupo natin – ng Japanese officials at saka defense officials – yung probability of transferring military equipment (We are discussing with Japanese officials the probability of transferring equipment)," Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Monday, May 25.
Aquino will be in Japan from June 2-5 for a state visit as the two countries face maritime and territorial disputes with China. Gazmin is joining the President in the trip.
Japanese defense officials have been in and out of the Philippines in recent years to discuss its commitment to help the country defend its islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Gazmin said the types of military hardware to be transferred have not been discussed. "Pinaplantsa pa iyan (We're still ironing those out) – exchange of technology, exchange of personnel, and eventually transfer of assets and equipment," he said.
Gazmin said Japan's Self Defense Forces will be invited to more drills in the Philippines, too, although he dismissed a visiting forces treaty as premature.
"Hindi pa hinog. Napakatagal bago ang Australia. Gaano katagal? 14 years (The time is not ripe. It took a long time before we had one with Australia. How long? 14 years)," he said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also asking Congress to pass a new law that will allow Tokyo to help American military units outside Japan – by sending fuel or ammunition, for example – if it supports its national interest.
This proposed law foresees more role for Japan in the South China Sea especially as the US appears to be taking a more aggressive stand in challenging China. (READ: New law to allow Japan to supply US military in South China Sea, say officials)
Gazmin also left for Hawaii on Tuesday, May 26, for a bilateral meeting with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Gazmin said he will ask his US counterpart how far they will go to protect the Philippines from China's actions in the disputed waters.
China has massive reclamation activities in 7 reefs in the South China Sea and has started challenging airplanes flying over the disputed region. These moves have prompted concerns that China is set to impose an Air Defense Idenfication Zone (ADIZ) in the area.
Last year, China imposed an ADIZ near disputed islands occupied by Japan, escalating tension in the region. – Rappler.com