Japan and the Philippines signed a key defense pact Monday allowing the deployment of Japanese forces for joint drills in the Southeast Asian nation that came under brutal Japanese occupation in World War II but is now building an alliance with Tokyo as both face an increasingly assertive China.

The Reciprocal Access Agreement, which similarly allows Filipino forces to enter Japan for joint combat training, was signed by Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa in a Manila ceremony witnessed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. It would take effect after ratification by the countries’ legislatures, Philippine and Japanese officials said.

Kamikawa called the signing “a groundbreaking achievement” that should further boost defense cooperation between the countries.