Japan Signs Defense Transfer Deal with Vietnam to Counter China

This picture taken and released by the Vietnam News Agency on September 12, 2021 shows Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh (R) shaking hands with Japan's Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi before a meeting in Hanoi. (Photo by STR / Vietnam News Agency / AFP) (Photo by STR/Vietnam News Agency/AFP via …
STR/Vietnam News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Japan and Vietnam signed an accord Saturday allowing Tokyo to supply Hanoi with Japanese-made defense equipment and technology as the two nations work toward more rigorously countering China’s growing presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Tokyo will hold subsequent talks with Hanoi to iron out specific details of the arms transfer, including the export of Japanese naval vessels to Vietnam, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters from Hanoi at a virtual press conference September 11.

Kishi met with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phan Van Giang, in Hanoi on September 11 to sign the arms trade deal. The freshly-inked accord elevates the defense partnership between Japan and Vietnam “to a new level,” Kishi said Saturday.

The new bilateral agreement will “strengthen Japan’s defense industrial base and is expected to contribute to the country’s security,” according to Kishi.

Vietnam is the eleventh nation to sign a defense equipment and technology transfer deal with Japan in recent months. The East Asian nation seeks to bolster its defenses against increased Chinese encroachment on the Senkaku Islands.

The island chain, administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing, is located along the southern edge of the East China Sea, just north of the heavily disputed South China Sea. Beijing calls the Senkaku islets “Diaoyu” and has deployed Chinese coast guard vessels to the waters surrounding the islands in recent months, often violating Japanese territorial waters as a result.

Hanoi has its own territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea, where Vietnam’s Paracel Islands have been the victim of increasing intrusions by Chinese vessels. Satellite imagery suggests China has constructed military outposts within the Spratly island chain.

In a thinly veiled reference to Beijing, Kishi told Giang during Saturday’s meeting he hoped the new Japan-Vietnam defense deal sends a message to the international community expressing Tokyo’s strong opposition to “any unilateral attempts to change the status quo.”

The Japan Ministry of Defense revealed in a statement September 12 that “a submarine suspected to be from China was spotted off a southern [Japanese] island” earlier that same day.

“The submerged vessel headed northwest off the eastern coast of Amami-Oshima Island on Friday morning [September 10] in the so-called contiguous zone, just outside Japan’s territorial waters, and it moved west in the East China Sea on Sunday morning,” according to the statement.

The ministry further disclosed that a “Chinese guided-missile destroyer was near the submarine.”

Sunday’s sighting marks the first time since June 2020 that Japan has “publicly stated that a submarine believed to be Chinese was sailing in the area,” according to the Japanese defense ministry.

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