COLOGNE, Germany — The governments of Japan and Germany have signed a defense cooperation pact that could set the stage for new arms transfers between the two nations.

The agreement, in the making since early 2015, was signed in Berlin on July 17, a spokesman for the German Ministry of Defense confirmed on Sunday. The deal, inked by the Japanese ambassador in Berlin, Takeshi Yagi, and Katrin Suder, a state secretary and key confidant of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, was initially reported by Japanese media, which claimed that German officials had objected to any kind of publicity.

According to the German ministry spokesman, the agreement comes with no specific arms projects in mind, though Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun cited Japanese defense officials as saying that Tokyo was interested in German armored personnel carriers and tank technology. That know-how is “highly regarded” in Japan, those sources said.

Tensions have been mounting in recent years between China and Japan over territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea. Japanese officials have broadened their aperture in striking global defense partnerships, collaborating not only with the United States but increasingly seeking the partnership of European nations, as well.

Exporting German technology to Japan should be relatively easy because the country is treated the same way as a NATO partner when it comes to export control regulations, the German defense ministry spokesman said.

An English-language agreement text published by the Japanese defense ministry says the countries would form a joint committee to determine future cooperative programs. The panel includes representatives from the nations’ economic, diplomatic and defense agencies, with the embassies in each of the capitals serving as the coordinating authorities.

A separate agreement, presumably kept secret, deals with securing any kind of technical information passed between the two nations, according to the declaration. Such measures could be particularly important in this case, as the Chinese are thought to be adept at extracting defense-related secrets from Western communications channels, if U.S. officials are to be believed.

Chinese officials have repeatedly dismissed any assertions of espionage.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

More In Defense News