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Japan to fund patrol ships for BD with eyes on China

by The Bangla Herald

The TBH Desk

Japan will transfer four patrol ships to Bangladesh, news agency Nikkei Asia has learned, in a bid to help bolster the country’s deterrence capabilities in the face of China’s maritime expansion.

The countries are expected to sign an agreement Wednesday in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital. The vessels will be provided under Japan’s Official Security Assistance (OSA) framework, equivalent to about 600 million yen ($3.9 million) in funding.

Japan recently agreed to transfer coastal radar equipment to the Philippines under the OSA. Bangladesh will be the second recipient of defense equipment under the framework.

The OSA was launched this fiscal year to provide direct defense assistance to like-minded nations. The Japanese government allocated 2 billion yen for the program in the current fiscal year’s budget. Malaysia and Fiji have also been named as potential recipients.

China has expanded its influence in the Indian Ocean through what has been called the “string of pearls” strategy. Beijing signed a 99-year lease for control of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port. It has also docked surveillance vessels in Sri Lanka, and in the Maldives, the president-elect considered to be pro-Beijing is about to take office.

For Japan, transferring equipment to South Asia is a way to counterbalance China’s influence.

Bangladesh imports roughly 70% of its weapons from China, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. However, quality concerns with Chinese-made military equipment have been raised, highlighting a need to diversify suppliers.

For Bangladesh, adding Japan to the list of suppliers has become important from a national security perspective to access technologically advanced equipment. The two countries have started negotiations on a pact concerning transfer of defense equipment and technology.

The Japan Self-Defense Forces have not conducted bilateral exercises with Bangladesh’s military. The transfer of equipment could lead to deeper security ties.

“For Japan, it is a challenge worth tackling, and for Japan’s defense industry, there is a potential of [Bangladesh] becoming a promising market,” said a source close to the Japanese government.

Japan currently has defense equipment and technology transfer agreements with 15 countries.

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