On the November 17th, Japan and Australia have agreed on a new policy of joint military exercises. This comes as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke after hosting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Tokyo.
“The Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) is widely perceived as yet another effort to unite like-minded governments in the region and counter China’s growing influence and ambitions in the Indo-Pacific”. Japan has also recently secured its defensive pacts between both Vietnam and Indonesia. In theory, they will be a part of a much larger governmental response to the perceived actions of the Chinese government.
“I hereby announce that we reached agreement in principle on a reciprocal access agreement, which had been negotiated to elevate security and defence cooperation between Japan and Australia to a new level,” Prime Minister Suga told reporters during his news conference.
Professor Blaxland of the Australian National University has stated that “the arrangement was aimed at mitigating “the risks of a more adventurous China”. He follows this up by stating that “there is a clear overlap of interests when it comes to managing maritime security, but Australia will still be mindful it may be seen as leading attempts to gang up against Beijing,”. This is regarding both Australia’s and China’s strained relationship in recent years.
Australia has recently been targeted by Chinese tariffs on their food exports, due to challenging the Chinese narrative around Coronavirus and its origins. Because of this, Beijing has listed off ways in which Australia is intending to damage the Chinese state.
Alongside, Professor Blaxland, Professor Mulloy of Japan’s Daito Bunka University also recently spoke out regarding Australian-Japanese relations. “Australia has no plans to become a counter force in the Senkakus and will not want to assume any risk on behalf of Japan, while Tokyo has the same position towards Australia,”. While referring to Japanese controlled islands claimed by China in the East China Sea. Alongside this, both Japan and Australia have also shared concern for the “former British colony of Hong Kong where China has imposed a strict new national security law, clamping down on dissent”.
This comes as Japan post-Abe will under Suga will seek to use the Coronavirus pandemic as an impetus to diversify the nation’s security status and not become wholly reliant on the United States. As Australia and Japan share a natural enemy, such actions become the obvious answer to their existing problems. In addition to this, Japan’s Defence Ministry has requested an increase of 8 per cent in the next annual budget allocations, from April 2021, which would raise the total to a record high US$55 billion.
The agreement has itself been the product of under six years of complex work and diplomacy. The main differences being both “notably Canberra’s concern about the possibility of one of its military personnel facing the death penalty for a crime committed in Japan”. Australia itself does not have such legislation.
When completed and ratified the RAA, will be the first military agreement for Japan since 1960. The last nation to form such an agreement is the United States, forming the nation’s place and its regional security.
Prime Minister Morrison told reporters that he viewed the relationship as being “very important”, underscoring the vital relationship between the nations while visiting Prime Minister Suga in Tokyo. Mostly, in response to Beijing’s increasing military expansionism within the South China Sea.
Because of this, both Australia and Japan have decided that it is of critical importance to keep an eye on China and its growing closeness with ASEAN member states and across the rest of the Asia-Pacific. “In overall terms, the biggest positive of the RAA is that it is just easier to have exchanges between the armed forces of the two countries, and that could also potentially be extended to their coastguard units and police forces as well,” Mulloy stated regarding Tokyo’s growing concern about their Diaoyu and Senkaku Islands, which China has eyed for the last two decades.
Mulloy goes onto explain that “Another positive for Japan will be the potential assistance that Australia can provide after a natural disaster, such as the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami off northeast Japan”. It should be remembered that in the direct aftermath of the earthquake it was Australian search and rescue operations that were being conducted.
As such, the agreement will hope to help Japan learn from Australia’s experience regarding its active services in “Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, while Canberra has since 2014 been training Japanese intelligence officers. The Ground Self-Defence Forces have a very high estimation of Australia’s special forces and its operation of forward air-control units to carry out targeting and reconnaissance missions” according to Mulloy.
In conclusion, under Suga’s administrative Japan has now completely committed itself in further pursuing a policy of subversion regarding the Chinese state. This is evidenced by Japanese economic decoupling, growing defence entrenchment with ASEAN nations and now its new defence agreement with Australia. Ultimately, what this shows is that as China rises, Japanese subversion increased twofold, not just internally with its economic decoupling but also internationally via its foreign defence pacts.
Featured image credit: Alex Knight on Unsplash