Mark Ralston/AFP Photo
MANILA, Philippines – Japan is looking at an "advanced disaster relief framework or agreement" to allow "our forces to be deployed to the Philippines faster," Japan Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters on Saturday, December 7.
"That would be more meaningful for future field operations here. The two of us agreed that we would expand and deepen our cooperation between two sides on defense authorities," he said.
Japan sent about 1,200 troops to assist victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda. It is contemplating plans to pull them out by the end of the year but Onodera vowed it's not the end of Japan's assistance to the typhoon victims. (READ: Japanese troops welcomed back in typhoon-hit Philippines and Japan triples PH aid package to over $30M)
Onodera is scheduled to visit Japanese operations in the Visayas on Sunday, December 8, to determine the future assistance it will offer the Philippines.
"The needs in the site are changing from emergency relief to reconstruction and recovery. Therefore, self defense forces and international disaster relief operations, I believe, are closing by the end of the year. But this does not mean that the support and assistance by government of Japan would end. It will change and shift to the next stage," said Onodera.
The US is the only treaty ally of the Phiilppines. In the wake of China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea, the two countries are negotiating a military-to-military agreement to allow increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines and give them more access to military bases.