TOKYO -- The Japanese government hopes that by the end of the year it can conclude agreements with the Philippines and Vietnam on sharing and protecting classified defense information.
The pacts would allow the countries' armed forces to share information on defense equipment and other nations' troop movements.
Japan aims to strengthen defense cooperation with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to counter China, which is increasing its presence in the South China Sea. Deals reached with the Philippines and Vietnam would be the first defense information pacts between Japan and ASEAN members.
If agreements are signed, Japan would be able to share information on Chinese forces' movements in the South China Sea, where the Philippines and Vietnam both have territorial disputes with China. In October, a U.S. Navy vessel sailed near islands that China is building in the South China Sea.
Neither the Philippines nor Vietnam have much in the way of navies or air forces. Japan is considering whether to provide the Philippines with training aircraft and other military equipment used by its Maritime Self-Defense Force.
Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani plans to visit the Philippines and Vietnam early this year to open talks on sharing military information.
The agreements would require each party to strictly control shared information.
Japan has concluded similar information security agreements with the U.S., the U.K., France, Australia, India and NATO.