Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani plans to meet with his Philippine counterpart Voltaire Gazmin in the Southeast Asian country as early as April to beef up security ties amid China's increasing maritime assertiveness, a government source said Tuesday.
In the talks, Nakatani could discuss the provision of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force TC-90 training aircraft to the Philippines to strengthen its surveillance capabilities in the South China Sea, where China and the Philippines have competing territorial claims, the source said.
The two ministers are also expected to discuss expanding joint exercises between the MSDF and the Philippines navy as well as Japanese support measures to strengthen the Philippines' military, the source said.
Nakatani will also convey Japan's support for the Philippines' efforts to settle its territorial disputes with China through a case brought by Manila before an arbitral tribunal in the Netherlands under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The visit, which may take place during Japan's Golden Week holidays from late April to early May, would follow the two countries' broad agreement on an accord for the transfer of defense equipment and technology reached last November.
Tokyo has signed a similar pact with India, which Nakatani is also considering visiting in April or later.
Nakatani plans to meet with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar to discuss the possibility of India purchasing Japan's US-2 amphibious aircraft.
In a major shift in its postwar security policy, Japan enacted new security legislation last September with the aim of expanding the scope of the Self-Defense Forces' activities abroad.
Since the enactment of the legislation, Nakatani has visited Hawaii, Australia, South Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation.