MANILA (Reuters) – Negotiations between Japan and the Philippines for a Reciprocal Access Agreement on defence and security are close to conclusion, Tokyo’s ambassador to Manila said on Thursday.

The role of the Philippines in maintaining regional stability and security was undoubtedly important, ambassador Kazuya Endo said in a speech.

A significant development can be expected on defence equipment transfer, he said.

Japanese and Philippine foreign and defence ministers will meet in Manila on July 8 for talks that could include a breakthrough defence pact that would allow their military forces to visit each other’s soil.

The Philippines has been ramping up its ties with neighbours and other countries to counter what it describes as China’s growing aggression in the South China Sea.

Maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is critical for the Indo Pacific region, Endo said.

(Reporting by Mikhail Flores and Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies and Tomasz Janowski)

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