TOKYO • Japan plans to donate retired military patrol aircraft to Malaysia, a report said yesterday, as alliances strengthen in response to China's maritime claims.
The two countries are among a number in the region stepping up defence cooperation against what they see as Beijing's aggressive stance on the high seas.
China claims most of the South China Sea - a resource-rich region scattered with hundreds of reefs and small islands - where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims.
Responding to a request by Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo plans to offer decommissioned P-3C patrol aircraft, the Nikkei business daily said, quoting an unnamed official at the Defence Ministry.
Japan's Parliament is currently deliberating a Bill that would allow the nation to provide military equipment to other countries at no cost, Agence France-Presse reported.
Malaysia will likely be the first beneficiary once the Bill is passed, the Nikkei said, without clarifying how many P-3Cs Japan plans to donate.
The Maritime Self-Defence Force - Japan's navy - currently has some 60 P-3Cs in operation, and plans to retire those that have logged around 15,000 flight hours.
Immediate confirmation of the report was not available, according to Agence France-Presse.
The P-3Cs were developed by Lockheed Martin of the United States, according to Nikkei. They are equipped with radar and other capabilities which allow them to detect and monitor suspicious ships and submarines.
Japan is enhancing its defence cooperation with various members of Asean that are involved in the South China Sea dispute with China.
The Japanese government has concluded an equipment transfer agreement with the Philippines, according to Nikkei.
In May last year, Japan announced its first direct overseas military aid with a provisional agreement to lease five TC-90 King Air planes to the Philippines to be used as patrol planes.
Tokyo is also negotiating a similar pact with Indonesia. Countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia also receive military rescue assistance in times of emergency as well as assistance in building infrastructure, Nikkei reported.
Besides its spats around the South China Sea, Beijing is also involved in a simmering territorial row with Tokyo over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Japan is worried that Chinese control of the South China Sea, a waterway through which some US$5 trillion (S$7.02 trillion) of global trade passes a year, would threaten Japan's national security and take Beijing one step closer to extending its influence into the East China Sea and Western Pacific.