Japan signs deal to export defense assets to Vietnam amid China’s concern

TOKYO (Kyodo) – Japan and Vietnam on Saturday signed an agreement allowing the export of Japanese-made defense equipment and technology to the Southeast Asian country in order to strengthen cooperation in a context of China’s growing assertion in regional waters.

The deal was signed in Hanoi during Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi’s first overseas trip after taking office last year. Japan will speed up negotiations with Vietnam to sell the vessels of the Self-Defense Forces, Kishi said at an online press conference after a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart Phan Van Giang.

Vietnam, as one of the key members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is the 11th country to sign such a deal with Japan, at a time when China is asserting its claims in parts of the East and South China Seas.

A ministry official said the deal comes as “Vietnam diversifies its sources of defense equipment.”

Vietnam has strong defense ties with Russia and depends on it for most of its equipment, including submarines and fighter jets, as it was part of the former Communist bloc during the Cold War.

The agreement “will strengthen Japan’s defense industrial base and should contribute to the security of the country,” Kishi said.

He added that they had agreed to work together for a rules-based order and reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, as well as respect for international law, in a veiled misunderstanding against Beijing.

Vietnam has territorial disputes with China over the Spratly and Paracel island groups in the South China Sea, with Beijing accused of militarizing the outposts it has built.

During the meeting, Kishi told Giang he wanted to send a message to the international community to express his firm opposition to “any unilateral attempt to change the status quo,” as Beijing claims the Senkaku Islands under Japanese administration in the East China Sea. .

Kishi expressed his views on maintaining and strengthening a free and open Indo-Pacific and raised concerns over a Chinese law implemented in February, allowing its coast guards to use weapons. against foreign vessels which it considers to have entered its waters illegally.

Kishi said he told Giang that “the stability of the situation above Taiwan is important” for the security of Japan and the rest of the world, while agreeing to intensify bilateral cooperation, such as through stopovers. in Vietnam by SDF ships and planes, and in the area of ​​cybersecurity.

He also said that Japan would work with Vietnam to achieve “North Korea’s” full, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges. “

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