• After its self-imposed ban on exporting weapons, Japan agreed to lease up to 5 defense aircraft to the Philippines
  • The Philippines sought provision from Japan due to the rising tension with China over South China Sea territories
  • The former World War II foes struck an accord and Japan is to help train pilots and mechanics from the Philippines

Japan will be leasing up to five of its Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) TC-90 training aircraft to the Philippines in its efforts to strengthen ties with a former World War II foe to counter China’s increasing sovereignty over the South China Sea. This is the first time Japan will rent military aircraft to a foreign country after its self-imposed ban on exporting weapons.

It was in 2014 when Japan eased up on its self-imposed restrictions in weapon exportation for as long as they “serve the purpose of contributing to international cooperation and Japan’s security interests”.

According to The Japan Times, the deal was confirmed by Japan Defense Minister Gen Nakatani and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Monday, May 2. The Philippines sought provision of defense equipment from Japan due to the rising tensions in territorial disputes with China. China has initiated a rapid and massive island-building strategy to assert power over the South China Sea.

The two countries have initially struck accord last February 29; under which Japan will lease the training aircraft and help in training pilots and aircraft mechanics from the Philippines.

“We agreed that it is important for all the countries in the region to strengthen cooperation in order to maintain peace and stability of the South China Sea,” Nakatani told reporters. “We believe that improving the Philippines’ capability will lead to stability in the region.”

The TC-90 is capable of flying 1,900km; roughly double the flight range of the Philippine navy’s aircraft, Xinhua wrote. It is expected to improve the Philippines’ maritime surveillance activity.

Aside from the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the disputed waters. Japan also has a clash with China in the East China Sea over uninhabited islands that is being claimed by the latter.