Leasing of MSDF aircraft should help Philippines’ patrol capabilities
The Philippines is confronted with China’s attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the South China Sea by stepping up its maritime activities in the region. In tandem with the United States, Japan should promote multilayered defense cooperation with Manila.
Defense Minister Gen Nakatani and his Philippine counterpart Voltaire Gazmin agreed during a telephone conversation that Japan would lease Maritime Self-Defense Force TC-90 training aircraft that have been decommissioned. Up to five TC-90s are likely to be leased. The agreement also calls for Japan to provide education and training of pilots and related equipment as well as to cooperate locally in such operations as the maintenance of the aircraft.
Many of the planes possessed by the Philippine Navy are outdated and their performance is poor. It is difficult for the Philippine Navy to singlehandedly face up to China, which has been flexing its muscles on the back of its rapid military buildup through such activities as the creation of man-made islands in the South China Sea.
With a flight range of 1,870 kilometers, the TC-90s would be mobilized for the Philippine military’s warning and surveillance operations and disaster relief activities. As TC-90s are capable of covering most of the Spratly Islands, where China has been building military fortifications, the Philippines’ patrol capabilities will likely be enhanced significantly.
The deal on the lease of TC-90s was initiated at the request of Manila. It is the first application of the Japan-Philippine agreement on defense equipment and transfer of technology that was signed in February based on an accord reached at a bilateral summit meeting in June last year.
The lease is also in keeping with the “three principles on transfer of defense equipment” decided by the government in April 2014, which call for, among other things, preventing the leakage of technology to a third party. By going through the necessary procedures, the lease amounts to reasonable cooperation on defense equipment.
MSDF vessels made successive port calls in the Philippines last month.
The submarine Oyashio, on a training voyage, called at Subic Port with a destroyer in early April. Late in that month, the MSDF’s largest destroyer, the Ise, which carries helicopters, made a goodwill call at the port.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino fully supports the initiative of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration for Japan’s “proactive contribution to peace” and highly evaluates the security legislation established by it. Therefore, it is expected the bilateral relationship will be reinforced.
In this connection, it is important for the two countries to closely cooperate with Washington to ensure regional stability.
When U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter conferred with Aquino in Manila in mid-April, it was agreed that the two countries would hold regular joint patrols in the South China Sea.
Within days after this accord, U.S. military aircraft conducted warning and surveillance operations in the vicinity of the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed both by the Philippines and China. These operations were undertaken in accordance with the U.S.-Philippine agreement.
It is institutionally difficult for the Self-Defense Forces to conduct activities constantly in the South China Sea.
It is essential for the SDF to assist in various ways to build capabilities of the Philippines and other countries concerned while appropriately sharing roles with the U.S. military, thereby contributing to peace in the South China Sea.
These endeavors will certainly lead to ensuring the security of sea-lanes for Japan without allowing China to change the status quo by force.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 5, 2016)