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Deepen ties with Australia through “SOFA”

(Sankei: November 25, 2015 – p. 2)


 The Japan-Australia foreign and defense ministerial consultation (2 Plus 2) was held in Sydney, Australia. The two countries shared “strong concern” about China, which continues constructing artificial islands and military bases in the South China Sea.


 Australia expressed strong support for Japan’s security laws.


 As former Prime Minister Abbott had maintained a strong relationship of trust with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Turnbull administration formed in September expressed a stance of continuing security cooperation with Japan. We welcome that.


 A remarkable accomplishment of the consultation is that the two countries agreed to conclude “the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for visiting military units” as soon as possible so that the Self-Defense Force (SDF) and the Australian military can operate smoothly in the other’s theater.


 If concluded, the SOFA will allow the SDF and the Australian military to bring their units, equipment, and ammunition to the other’s country for joint exercises and disaster relief.


 The security law incorporates not only the U.S. military but also other foreign militaries. As the law assumes cooperation with the Australian military, it is appropriate to conclude a SOFA with Canberra.


 If China controls the South China Sea militarily, all of Australia will be within range of China’s ballistic missiles. China’s pursuit of maritime hegemony is a serious issue not only for Japan and the U.S but also for Australia.


 As both Japan and Australia are allied with the U.S., the two countries are regarded as “quasi-allied.” Demonstration by the three countries that they are moving ahead with trilateral exercise might deter China.


 Japan is competing with Germany and France for a contract with Australia in the joint development of the next generation submarine. Japan explained to Australia in the 2 + 2 meeting the merits of development undertaken by Japan and Australia.


 If Australia selects Japan as its partner, Canberra will operate new submarines with a Japanese-made hull, Japanese navigation system, and U.S. weapons system.


 Such submarines will be important to demonstrate strategic cooperation among Japan, the U.S., and Australia in the South China Sea and the regions of the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean.


 While protecting the core of Japan’s defense technology, it is necessary to link joint development with the promotion of the Japan-Australia relationship, which will benefit regional peace and security. (Abridged)

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