Philippines hopes to sign key defense pact with Japan

The Philippine's military chief said Thursday he hoped a key defense pact with Japan allowing for the deployment of troops on each other's territory will be signed at security talks next week.

Japanese Defence Minister Minoru Kihara and Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa are set to meet with their Philippine counterparts in Manila on Monday.

The Philippines and Japan — longtime allies of the United States — have been boosting ties in the face of an increasingly confrontational China, which is locked in maritime territorial disputes with both countries.

"We are hoping that during that meeting, the RAA, or the reciprocal access agreement, will be signed," military chief General Romeo Brawner told AFP and other reporters at a news conference.

"RAA is important because it will allow Japanese forces, Japanese troops to come into our country to conduct training with us. It will also allow our troops to go to Japan to train with them."

The Philippines and Japan began negotiating the pact in November.

The accord would create the legal basis for the countries to send defence personnel to each other's territory for training and other operations.

Tokyo has signed similar reciprocal access agreements with Britain and Australia in recent years.

The Philippines has equivalent pacts with the United States and Australia and plans to pursue one with France.

Japan, which invaded and occupied the Philippines during World War II, is a top provider of overseas development assistance to the Southeast Asian country and also a supplier of security equipment.

The Philippines agreed in May to buy five 97-meter coast guard patrol ships from Japan in a deal worth more than $400 million.

In April, leaders from Japan, the...

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