Japan seeks to allocate its first grant for security cooperation to the Philippines under a new program aimed at improving the defensive capacities of regional allies, reported Asia Nikkei.
Tokyo detailed plans to establish the new program to boost partner nations’ armed forces in key security policy documents revised in December 2022.
The first country to receive the grants, which can include funds and equipment, would be the Philippines. It is important to note that the new initiative is distinct from the grants Japan provides for international development, which can only be used for non-military activities.
According to the report, the assistance will be discussed at a meeting between Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on February 9 in Tokyo.
The report added that more details will be discussed after the Japanese parliament approves the budget.
Before departing for Japan on February 8, Philippine President Marcos made a speech in which he showed interest in pursuing extensive collaboration with Japan, notably on the national security and economic fronts.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. departed for Japan on Wednesday noon in a bid to strengthen Manila and Tokyo's collaboration in a wide range of areas, including agriculture, renewable energy, digital transformation, defense and infrastructure.
Read: https://t.co/K7J8u1DNKu pic.twitter.com/jxCZC26FjV
— Presidential Communications Office (@pcogovph) February 8, 2023
The new program, meanwhile, represents a total departure from Tokyo’s traditional policy of strict self-restraint on the export of arms and the transfer of defense technology abroad.
The old approach has long been regarded by the majority of the populace as one of the fundamental tenets of a pacifist Japan.
The nation’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) program, one of the biggest in the world, has traditionally only funded civil infrastructure initiatives, excluding any military-involved projects.
This has created space for China to offer such assistance through its Belt and Road Initiative to nations in Southeast Asia and elsewhere requiring modernized military infrastructure, increasing Beijing’s influence.
But Tokyo now looks to a new category for security aid to increase its diplomatic choices in light of the increasingly complex security situation.
The change coincides with a broader policy shift by Japan, which has seen a dramatic increase in defense spending and the easing of stringent export restrictions on weapons.
The new type of aid will be given to militaries of nations that Tokyo regards as friendly and whose cooperation is essential for Japan’s security. Construction and upkeep of military hospitals or joint military-civilian airports and seaports are examples of potential projects.
Japan is also aiming to deliver equipment that supports law-based security and peace. This would include armored vehicles for anti-terrorism operations, radars, and data analysis technologies to assist nations in monitoring their oceans and skies.
In light of China’s assertive actions in the South China Sea and mounting concerns over a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is set to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on February 9 to explore stronger security ties.
Marcos’ first trip to Tokyo comes after he inked a deal last week giving the US more access to the Philippines’ military bases. It also follows a visit by the Philippine president to Beijing in December 2022, during which he assured his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, that the Philippines would adopt an independent foreign policy.
According to Philippine officials, the two US allies are also looking into a potential agreement on visiting forces that would make it simpler for Japan to send troops to the Philippines for military exercises.
The so-called Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) would permit the deployment of troops for training and other purposes in each other’s territory. Similar agreements have recently been signed by Japan with Britain and Australia.
Marcos and Fumio Kishida, the prime minister of Japan, is not anticipated to conclude talks on the RAA agreement right away, but they are expected to agree to measures aimed at accelerating military deployments for humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Given its proximity to Taiwan and the waterways around it, the Philippines’ cooperation would be essential in the case of a conflict with China.
China has constructed and fortified artificial islands in the South China Sea to bolster its sweeping claims in the important shipping lane. Manila has lodged diplomatic protests in response to what it claims are Chinese vessels’ “illegal” operations in its exclusive economic zone.
Separately, the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea are a point of contention between China and Japan.
Also, Japan, the leading contributor of official development aid to the Philippines, sponsors several railway projects there, including constructing Manila’s first subway.
In addition to infrastructure, Marcos stated that during his visit, he will look to collaborate on agriculture, renewable energy, and digital transformation.