Japan is to give defense equipment and technology to Vietnam under an agreement signed on Saturday, as the two countries step up their military cooperation amid worries about China’s growing military influence.
Japanese Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi said the deal elevates the countries’ defense partnership “to a new level,” and that Japan and Vietnam plan to deepen defense ties through multinational joint exercises and other means.
Details about the transfer of specific equipment, including naval vessels, is to be worked out in subsequent talks, the ministry said.
Kishi’s meeting with Vietnamese Minister of Defense Phan Van Giang in Hanoi coincided with a two-day visit to the Vietnamese capital by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅). He wrapped up his visit by saying that China plans to donate 3 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine to Vietnam.
The agreement comes two weeks after US Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Vietnam to bolster ties with the Southeast Asian nation. During the tour, Harris urged countries to stand up against “bullying” by China in the South China Sea.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that Kishi and Giang agreed on the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as cooperation in various defense areas including cybersecurity.
Tokyo regularly protests the Chinese coast guard’s presence near the Japanese-controlled Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan — which are claimed by Taiwan as well as China. Japanese officials say Chinese vessels routinely violate Japanese territorial waters around the islands, sometimes threatening fishing boats.
During the negotiations, Kishi expressed Japan’s strong opposition to “any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion or any activities that escalate tensions,” referring to China’s increasingly assertive activity in the East and South China Seas, but without identifying any country by name.
Vietnam is the 11th nation with which Japan has signed a defense equipment and technology transfer deal. Tokyo is looking to expand military cooperation beyond the US, its longtime ally, and has signed similar agreements with the UK, Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Japan’s defense ministry said yesterday that a submarine believed to be from China was spotted in waters near its southern islands, as maritime tensions persist in the Pacific.
Japan’s navy on Friday morning identified a submerged vessel sailing northwest just outside territorial waters near Amami Oshima, part of Kagoshima Prefecture, the ministry said in a statement.
A Chinese destroyer was also spotted in the vicinity.
Sunday’s announcement said that Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force identified the vessels in a contiguous zone, which is outside territorial waters where vessels are required to identify themselves. Regardless, Kishi instructed his staff to “gather information and maintain vigilant surveillance with a sense of urgency,” the statement said.
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