In what may turn out to be an unprecedented move for Japan, they are considering giving planes to the Philippines so Manila could step up their patrols in the South China Sea. This move would strengthen the ties between the two U.S. allies, and set them at odds with China.
This move is a response to China’s growing presence in the South China Sea which has started to upset the fragile alliance. China says that their efforts are not purely military, and that they will have a civilian presence, but currently there is no evidence of those claims. China is close to finishing a man-made 3,000 meter airstrip.
“We hope that military cooperation between the relevant countries can benefit regional peace and stability, rather than the opposite,” China’s defense ministry said of the potential cooperation in a statement faxed to Reuters.
Japan does not have any claim to the region, but they are concerned about the possible extension of China’s military presence around well-used shipping lanes in the South China Sea. China is constructing seven artificial islands in the region that will drastically alter the balance of power. While China already claims the largest part of the sea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and Vietnam also have a stake in the area.
With all of these nations competing in the area, the Philippines are taking a leadership role in defending the territory. However, they will need to upgrade their forces as they only have a few aircraft they can deploy for patrols. The three proposed Beechcraft TC-90 would represent a serious upgrade.
“The Philippines doesn’t have enough aircraft to conduct regular patrols over the South China Sea,” an anonymous source in Japan said.
The deal is currently just in the planning stage and would require a significant change in Japanese financial regulations that state all used government-owned equipment must be sold for the fair market price. If they do change the policy to allow donations of military equipment it may open the possibility of Japan donating to more countries in the South China Sea, which would increase their stake in the stability of the area.
Washington also supports this cooperation as they wish to shift some of the military burden to their allies in the region. They implore Japan to offer training as well if they do donate the equipment as it presents an entirely new aircraft for the Philippines.[Reuters]