TOKYO, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Japan and the Philippines are expected to sign an agreement that would soon allow Tokyo to supply Manila with war-fighting equipment.
The deal is the first of its kind between Japan, Asia's second-largest economy, and a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, NHK reported.
The agreement is being reached at a time when China has escalated land reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Beijing has been building airstrips and other facilities on the disputed Spratly Islands, also claimed by the Philippines.
Japan has been critical of Beijing's continued buildup on the reefs, and in 2015 Tokyo and Manila conducted joint exercises in the western Philippines, not far from the South China Sea.
According to Yonhap, the Japanese government could finalize the agreement on the transfer of defense equipment and technology to the Philippines as early as next week.
Last November Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III agreed on a larger framework for future accords, and working-level consultations have been ongoing since that time.
The agreement includes details on the kinds of war-fighting equipment that are to be supplied, and how to regulate the transfer of equipment and technology from third countries.
Japan retains agreements concerning the transfer of defense equipment and technology with Australia and the United States, and the Philippines is the first member of ASEAN to sign a similar bilateral agreement with Tokyo.