China expressed alarm on Thursday about an agreement in which the Philippines will lease five aircraft from Japan to help patrol the disputed South China Sea.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino said the five TC-90 training aircraft would help the navy in patrolling what the Philippines views as its territory.
“If the Philippines’ actions are to challenge China’s sovereignty and security interests, China is resolutely opposed,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.
“I also want to point out that Japan is not a party to the South China Sea issue and we are on high guard against its moves. We demand that Japan speak and act cautiously and not do anything to harm regional peace and stability.”
China, the world’s second-largest economy, and Japan, the third largest, have a difficult political history, with relations strained by the legacy of Japan’s World War Two aggression and conflicting claims over a group of uninhabited East China Sea islets.
The Philippine military, for decades preoccupied with domestic insurgencies, has been shifting its focus to territorial defense, allocating 83 billion pesos ($1.77 billion) until 2017 to upgrade and modernize its air force and navy.
Aquino said on Wednesday his country will lease five aircraft from Japan
Aquino, whose six-year term ends in June, outlined the progress in efforts to modernize his country’s underfunded military, one of Asia’s most ill-equipped.
“Were they not saying that our air force before was ‘all air and no force?'” he asked.
Aquino cited how two FA-50 fighter jets escorted his commercial plane as it entered Philippine airspace as he flew back home from a recent US trip. The FA-50s from South Korea were the country’s first fighter jets in a decade since it retired its F5 jets in 2005.
In addition to leasing the TC-90 training planes, the Philippines will also acquire a dozen military aircraft this year and in 2017 from other countries, including two more of a dozen FA-50 fighter jets and two C-130 cargo planes, he said.