Philip­pines wants pact for Ja­panese troops

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MARI YA­M­AGUCHI

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III said Fri­day he wants to start talks to al­low Ja­panese troops into his Southeast Asian coun­try, as both na­tions try to build up their de­fenses at a time of tense ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes with China.

A vis­it­ing forces agree­ment would al­low for re­fu­el­ing and other lo­gis­ti­cal and legal needs for pe­ri­odic vis­its by Ja­panese troops, Aquino told a news con­fer­ence at the end of his four-day visit to Tokyo. The Philip­pines has sim­i­lar deals with the U.S. and Australia.

The Philip­pines and Ja­pan on Thurs­day signed a strate­gic part­ner­ship agree­ment and said they would start talks on sell­ing Ja­panese mil­i­tary hard­ware and tech­nol­ogy, while bol­ster­ing ex­er­cises and op­er­a­tions be­tween their mil­i­taries. Ja­pan will be de­liv­er­ing 10 pa­trol ships for the Philip­pine coast guard and also promised to up­grade its sur­veil­lance and de­fense ca­pa­bil­ity.

How­ever, the spokesman for the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice, Kenko Sone, said he did not know im­me­di­ately whether Ja­pan was also start­ing talks on a vis­it­ing forces agree­ment with the Philip­pines.

Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe wants to ex­pand Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary role abroad, and al­ready has part­nered with a num­ber of coun­tries, in­clud­ing Australia, to com­ple­ment Tokyo’s cor­ner­stone al­liance with the U.S.

Abe’s Cabi­net last year adopted a new in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ja­pan’s war-re­nounc­ing con­sti­tu­tion that would al­low Ja­pan to aid for­eign al­lies un­der attack. So far, Ja­panese troops have been re­stricted to Ja­pan and its vicin­ity, and the changes are cur­rently be­ing dis­cussed in par­lia­ment.

De­fense Min­is­ter Gen. Nakatani has said that the new law, if passed, could al­low Ja­panese mil­i­tary to pro­vide es­corts and sur­veil­lance in the South China Sea, where the Philip­pines and the U.S. have chal­lenged China’s ter­ri­to­rial claims.

Aquino said the two lead­ers touched on a pos­si­bil­ity of start- ing talks to­ward forg­ing a vis­it­ing forces agree­ment, and that the Philip­pines is ready to dis­cuss fur­ther de­tails. He said strate­gic part­ners need such an ar­range­ment in case “there comes a time that you would need to be in co­or­di­na­tion.”

Ja­pan hosts Amer­i­can troops un­der its bi­lat­eral se­cu­rity treaty but has no vis­it­ing forces agree­ment with other na­tions, ex­cept in the case of U.N.-led peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions.

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