Japan offers Philippines 10 ships to patrol South China Sea
Raissa Robles in Manila
Japan will provide the Philippines with 10 coastguard vessels as the two nations deepen their strategic partnership to counter what they said were threats from China in the disputed South China Sea.
The Philippines' foreign secretary, Albert del Rosario, said Japan's foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, made the offer during talks in Manila yesterday to help the Philippines with what it saw as "very threatening" activity by China in the disputed sea.
"We do have this threat and this threat is shared by many countries, not just by Japan," del Rosario said, confirming that Japan would supply the Philippines with the 10 ships and communications equipment.
The deal for the 10 "multi-role response vessels" is expected to be classed as overseas development aid. The first ship is expected to be delivered within 18 months, and some could be built in the Philippines. The ships offer represents a significant boost to the Philippines' maritime forces, among the weakest in Asia.
A spokesman for the Philippine foreign office said that the new vessels would go to a civilian agency, the Coast Guard.
While Japan is not a claimant to the South China Sea, it has grown concerned at China's actions over its disputes with countries bordering the sea, given the importance of the area's vital shipping lanes to its economy.
Beijing and Tokyo are embroiled in a dispute over a group of uninhabited islands, known as the Diaoyus in China and the Senkakus in Japan, in the East China Sea.