Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan and Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Republic of the Philippines. Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office, Philippines
Japan may give planes to the Philippines that Manila could use for patrols in the South China Sea, as part of its increasing involvement in the area. This would deepen Tokyo’s security ties with the Southeast Asian nation most at odds with China over the disputed waterway.
While the talks are still in the preliminary phases, Reuters cited four anonymous sources as saying that Tokyo wants to provide three Beechcraft TC-90 King Air planes equipped with surface and air surveillance radar to the Philippines, though Manila reportedly preferred a more advanced aircraft, the Lockheed Martin P3-C, which may have the capability to track China's submarine activity.
Senior Philippine military and defense officials in Manila said they had not heard about the possible donation of the twin-turboprop TC-90 aircraft, which Japan uses to train military pilots.
"The Philippines doesn’t have enough aircraft to conduct regular patrols over the South China Sea," an anonymous source, familiar with the talks, told Reuters. The US had asked Japan to provide training programs and maintenance for any planes it gives the Philippines, a US military source told Reuters.
The foreign and defense ministries of China reacted to reports of Japan supplying patrol planes to the Philippines.
"China hopes that the military cooperation by relevant countries contributes to the peace and stabilization of the region, not the contrary," the Information Office of the Ministry of National Defense told China Daily in a written response.
In a statement released around midnight, the ministry cited Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as telling the East Asia Summit on Thursday that Beijing was not impeding freedom of navigation in the contested waterway.
The Spokesperson's Office of the Foreign Ministry stated that China hopes to see the parties involved do more to contribute to "improving the mutual trust among countries in the region".
Japan has pledged about US$2 billion in soft loans to upgrade the Philippines’ crumbling railway system in Tokyo’s biggest ever support for any Filipino project, Manila said.