PH, Japan in talks for transfer of military assets

MANILA, Philippines – Japan on Tuesday, November 17, said it is negotiating a “legal arrangement” with the Philippines to finalize a deal to see if Tokyo can give Manila military equipment.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could discuss this on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit hosted by the Philippines.

Citing sources, Reuters reported on Monday, November 16, that Aquino and Abe “will agree this week on a deal paving the way for Tokyo to supply Manila with used military equipment.”

“The deal will mark the first time Japan has agreed to directly donate military equipment to another country, and is the latest example of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's more muscular security agenda,” Reuters added.

In a briefing with reporters in Manila on Tuesday, Japanese Deputy Press Secretary Koichi Mizushima confirmed that Aquino and Abe “agreed to launch negotiations” on this deal when Aquino visited Japan in June.

“The two leaders agreed to launch the negotiations, so if we start negotiations, that means that we will reach an agreement in the end, so we have been working,” Mizushima told reporters.

He said the equipment from Japan, however, is not necessarily unused.

Mizushima also said he is unsure if Aquino and Abe will announce updates on the negotiations when they meet on Thursday, November 19.

“We have been working very hard to follow up on that agreement, and we are still working hard to do our homework, and so we will see,” Mizushima said. 

He said the negotiations involve, among other things, Japan's "very strict rules to export defense related equipment.

‘Legal arrangement’ needed

"In order for us to export or share technologies with other countries, we need to have a legal arrangement beforehand. So I think that is why the two countries have started negotiations," the Japanese official said.

He explained, "Usually, the countries who receive the technology equipment should not transfer the technology to other countries."

Mizushima said it is crucial for the Philippines to receive military aid in the face of China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea. "It is important for the Philippines to build its capacity to contribute to peace and stability in the region," he said.

Japan, for its part, also wants "to contribute to peace and stability"'in the Asia-Pacific.

Referring to the South China Sea, Mizushima said, "This is a very important sea lane for Japan, the US, and for China, too." 

Japan earlier vowed to donate patrol boats to the Philippines.

Japan is the Philippines’ only strategic partner aside from the United States, as of Tuesday. Vietnam is also eyeing a strategic partnership with the Philippines. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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