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Japan, Singapore deal signals Tokyo's deeper ASEAN engagement

Both Japan and Singapore plan to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics)

Japan's new defence trade agreement with Singapore – signed early June – is indicative of how Tokyo is trying to expand defence equipment and technology ties with countries across Southeast Asia, the Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD) told Janes .

The MoD confirmed that under Japan's new pact with Singapore, which is named the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology Agreement, the two countries are exploring opportunities to collaborate on the research, development, and production of defence capabilities.

The spokesperson for the MoD did not disclose the areas of likely co-operation under the agreement. However, they are likely to include non-lethal technologies related to maritime security, patrol, surveillance, communications, navigation, and logistics.

It is also possible that co-operation could feature fighter aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) capability. Japan plans to procure 147 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft, a mix of F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) aircraft and F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) versions. Singapore plans to acquire 12 F-35Bs.

The new bilateral agreement states that Japan and Singapore will make available to each other the defence equipment and technology that is “necessary to implement” the joint projects. It adds, “Such projects shall be those for contributing to international peace and security; joint research, development, and production projects; or to enhance security and defence co-operation.”

Under the agreement the two countries will establish a joint committee to determine collaborative projects. The agreement, which runs for an initial five years before options to extend, also prohibits the countries from sharing any jointly developed technology with a third party.

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