Japan Boosting Arms Sales to Southeast Asian Nations as Part of Anti-China Strategy
Japan's strategy of building-up its military strength to counter China also includes a plan to boost sales of its military equipment to Southeast Asian countries, especially those standing-up to China.
Japan will host a meeting on June 15 with defense officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to discuss the sharing of military equipment and technology, said Hideaki Watanabe, head of the Acquisition Technology and Logistics Agency of the Japan Ministry of Defense.
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Watanabe said there have been aggressive attempts by China in recent years to change the status quo, a reference to China's building of artificial islands in disputed areas of the South China Sea and China's claim ownership of Japan's Sekaku Islands in the East China Sea.
"It is essential to maintain the open and stable sea under the rule of law," said Watanabe.
"Ensuring safety of navigation and flight contributes to the peace and prosperity of Japan and international society. Japan's research and development of high-quality defense equipment contributes to the defense of Japan and elsewhere."
Japan's defense industry is worth $16.3 billion annually. Japan, however, restricts arms exports under its post-World War II pacifist Constitution. The threat from China has seen a relaxing of these prohibitions.
Japan is vigorously promoting the transfer of defense equipment to Southeast Asian countries. These equipment sales or donations are intended to boost the maritime security capabilities of ASEAN member states amid China's illegal aggression into the South China Sea.
Japan, however, had had only one military transaction with ASEAN nations thus far: the lease of Beechcraft TC-90 surveillance aircraft to the Philippines.
The TC-90 is the military version of the Beechcraft King Air family of utility aircraft. Under the agreement with the Philippines, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) will lease at least five TC-90 aircraft that will conduct maritime patrols. Philippine Navy pilots will also be trained in Japan to fly the aircraft.
The first two TC-90s were delivered to the Philippines in March with the remaining three to be delivered by March 2018.