Japan, Australia attain defence settlement amid China’s rise

Tokyo, November 17

Japan and Australia agreed on a ‘landmark’ defence pact on Tuesday allowing reciprocal visits for training and operations, and voiced concern over the disputed South China Sea, where China is extending its military influence.

Express concern over S China Sea

Japan and Australia expressed their worries about recent negative developments and serious incidents in the South China Sea, including militarisation of disputed features, dangerous coercive use of coast guard vessels. They also agreed to deepen their ties in 5G networks technology, and undersea cables and resource security for critical minerals supply. Relations of both countries with China aren’t warm these days due to a number of issues.

It is Japan’s first agreement covering foreign military presence on its soil since a status of forces agreement in 1960 that allowed the United States to base warships, jets and troops in Japan as part of an alliance that Washington describes as the bedrock of regional security.

The Reciprocal Access Agreement strengthens defence ties between the two US allies at a time when China is asserting its role in the region and the United States is going through a messy leadership transition.

The pact allows Japanese and Australian troops to visit each other’s countries and conduct training and joint operations and was agreed in principle by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, who is visiting Tokyo. The two sides also agreed on the need for a framework to allow Japanese military to protect Australian forces if needed, the joint statement said.

Since mid-August, the US has repeatedly riled China by sending warships to the South China Sea and has blacklisted 24 Chinese entities over their involvement in building and militarising artificial islands there.

China said it was conducting military training in the South China Sea through the end of November.

The legacy of Japan’s invasion and occupation of parts of China in World War Two still haunts relations, and the two sides dispute ownership of islands in the East China Sea.

Australia’s relations with China have deteriorated after Australian allegations of Chinese meddling in its affairs and calls for an international inquiry into the source of the coronavirus, first identified in China almost a year ago. — Reuters

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