Australia will join Japan in a regional defense pact designed to bolster their standing against Beijing’s growing military power and assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Tuesday he will travel to Tokyo to formalize the agreement which is a strategic show of intent to China, barely 48-hours after he publicly acknowledged the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency.
Australia’s Financial Review newspaper reported details of the pact, signalling that as well as alerting all powers in the region, Morrison and new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are scheduled to sign a reciprocal access agreement that has been under negotiation for six years and would codify rules for hosting visiting troops to each other’s country for training and operations.
The new agreement comes after recent calls for the creation of a regional NATO-type defence alliance to act as a counterbalance to China in a charged geopolitical landscape across Asia and the Indo-Pacific.
To that end India, the U.S., Australia and Japan are currently conducting joint naval exercises in a public show of mutual support, as Breitbart News reported.
The Malabar wargame began in 1992 as a joint exercise between the U.S. and Indian navies. Japan joined in 2015, and this year marks the return of Australia after 13 years of absence, putting all four members of the “Quad” alliance against Chinese expansionism on the roster.
Chinese state media on Friday claimed the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) “expelled” an American destroyer, the USS Mustin, from the South China Sea near the Xisha Islands, known in the West as the Paracel Islands. https://t.co/v4O9dGTFz1
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) August 29, 2020
Their joint efforts are seen as a crucial counterbalance to Beijing’s military which has expanded and advanced rapidly in recent years, the Times reports
China is developing aircraft carrier strike groups and missile systems, fortified several islets in the South China Sea, launched almost continuous exercises around Taiwan and sought to crush Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
A pact between Australia and Japan would mark an extraordinary turn around for nations that were bitter Second World War enemies.
It will come off the back of increased defence co-operation between the regional allies in recent years, through joint exercises by ground, maritime and air forces and in military surveillance activities.
Britain has expressed its eagerness to agree a similar military pact with Japan and signed preliminary agreements back in January, 2017, which may broaden after the Australian deal is concluded next week in Tokyo.