SINGAPORE (Kyodo) -- Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said Saturday that Tokyo will invite commissioned air force officers from every member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to observe Air Self-Defense Force training.
"The Indo-Pacific region is facing complicated security issues, and we need to collectively deal with them," Iwaya told a meeting in Singapore with his counterparts from the ASEAN region, an area in which China has been increasing its influence.
Iwaya said the "professional airmanship program" is aimed at boosting confidence-building among Japan's ASDF and the air services of all ASEAN member states and promoting shared values to ensure the rule of law.
Iwaya also expressed his willingness to invite field officers to the Self-Defense Forces' tabletop exercises while expanding Japan's humanitarian and disaster-relief support to the region.
"Defense cooperation between Japan and ASEAN is important in reinforcing a free and open Indo-Pacific," Iwaya said.
The ASEAN defense ministers "supported" Japan's proposals to enhance practical defense cooperation between Japan and ASEAN to build ASEAN's capacity against regional security challenges, said a statement issued by Singapore's Defense Ministry after the meeting.
The ministers noted that this year marks the 45th year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, and commended the significant progress in all areas of political-security, economic, and sociocultural cooperation.
The meeting between Japan and ASEAN defense ministers was first held in 2014. In 2016, Japan proposed its "Vientiane Vision" for maritime security cooperation, an initiative which envisages Japanese assistance in such areas as information gathering and surveillance.