Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Japan and New Zealand agreed to jointly provide support for island nations in the South Pacific -- a move that could offer an alternative to Chinese assistance to Pacific islands.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his New Zealand counterpart Winston Peters met in Wellington on Monday to agree to the provision of assistance, NHK reported.
Peters also said New Zealand will cooperate with Tokyo to address Chinese militarization in the South China Sea for the sake of peace in "our part of the world," Kyodo News reported.
The two sides said they would pursue a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy in response to Chinese construction of islands in the South China Sea, according to NHK.
China has played a significant role in providing development assistance to countries like Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea.
The agreement between Japan and New Zealand comes at a time when Tokyo is pursuing the deployment of cruise missiles on tactical fighter aircraft.
Jiji Press reported Monday Japan's F-35A fighter jets would be equipped with Joint Strike Missiles with a range of over 300 miles.
The JSM is a long-range missile system designed by Kongsberg Defense systems. The missiles can take on high-value, heavily defended targets.
The self-defense force's F-15 aircraft will be equipped with the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, or JASSM, with a range of more than 500 miles.
The missile deployment is a sign Japan is taking extra steps to fortify defense against China, Russia and North Korea, according to the report.
Japan's military is also looking to spend about $57.2 million on research and development for hypersonic missiles for the next fiscal year, according to Jiji.
The Japanese government has given more power to the self-defense forces since 2014 -- after maintaining for decades armed forces with war potential will not be supported.