Over the past decade, Japan and Australia have steadily deepened their security cooperation. This important relation should be utilized for building peace in Asia.
The Japanese and Australian governments held two-plus-two consultations of their foreign and defense ministers in Tokyo.
Strongly condemning North Korea’s nuclear and missile development activities, the ministers of both countries agreed to put more pressure on North Korea, including the consideration of implementing their own sanctions. They also agreed to call on China to urge North Korea to restrain itself.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop criticized North Korea over its illegal, illicit and highly belligerent behavior.
It is crucial that both Japan and Australia support the United States, which is urging China to wield Beijing’s influence over Pyongyang while intensifying its military pressure on North Korea.
For his part, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull —who has connections with the Chinese administration led by President Xi Jinping — is urged to assume his role in approaching China and building an encirclement around North Korea.
With regard to China, the Japan-Australia joint statement made clear their “opposition to any unilateral actions,” with China’s maritime advance in the South and East China seas in mind. The joint statement also urged all parties to pursue “demilitarization” in the South China Sea. It is imperative that first, among other things, China’s militarization of the artificial islands it has built be put to an end.
Japan and Australia have reinforced bilateral cooperation since both countries announced the joint declaration on security cooperation in 2007, under the first Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This is the seventh two-plus-two meeting between the two countries, with both countries being a “quasi-ally” of each other.
Work together with U.S.
The joint statement has positioned the alliances with the United States as “the cornerstones of regional stability and prosperity,” and emphasized “their enduring importance.”
With the United States — an ally of both Japan and Australia — at the core, expanding multilayered cooperative relations between Japan and Australia, which have common values, would bring about various synergistic effects.
It is worrying, however, that Turnbull and U.S. President Donald Trump, during their phone talks in January, were said to have become tense over the immigration issue.
U.S.-Australian relations must be mended properly on the occasion of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Australia, which started on Saturday.
There is the possibility that trilateral cooperation among Japan, the United States and Australia will advance further in the future. Thus, it is important to actively explore the realization of joint military drills and security dialogue with India, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries.
Following the conclusion of the new Japan-Australia Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, Japan and Australia are aiming to sign within this year an agreement concerning the status of visiting forces of each state in the territory of the other state. This agreement, if signed, will facilitate joint exercises and disaster rescue operations of the Self-Defense Forces and Australian forces should they be dispatched to each other’s territory.
During the two-plus-two ministerial talks, both countries also confirmed the two will coordinate views regarding holding their first joint drills in Japan using the fighter aircraft of the Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force next year. The bilateral relationship of trust should be further reinforced by accumulating diverse field training exercises between the SDF and Australian forces.