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Japan, Australia considering revising joint declaration on security cooperation

The Japanese and Australian governments are considering revising the Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, Sankei learned on Dec. 29. The current declaration focuses on security cooperation against terrorism and North Korea’s nuclear missiles but does not touch on handling threats posed by China. The revised declaration will emphasize the enhancement of cooperation against China, with a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in mind. The declaration will offer guidelines for raising the two countries’ security cooperation to a new level and enhance joint response capabilities during contingencies.


The Japanese and Australian governments formulated the Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation (Japan-Australia Joint Declaration) in 2007. This is Japan’s first joint declaration aside from the Japan-U.S. Joint Declaration on Security formulated in 1996. By 2017, Japan had signed joint declarations with India, Canada, and the UK. If the Japan-Australia Joint Declaration is updated, it will be Japan’s first time to revise a joint declaration.


The aim of the current Japan-Australia Joint Declaration was to complement the role of the U.S. and maintain the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region, since the U.S. had been focused on the fight against terrorism after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The declaration focused on strengthening cooperation to counter terrorism and North Korea.


At the time, the U.S. was focusing on its response to China, which was rapidly increasing its defense spending. Meanwhile, Japan had positioned the Chinese threat as a mid- to long-term issue, and Australia, which prioritized strengthening relations with China, including expanding exports, did not even recognize China as a potential threat.


How the two countries differed with the U.S. in their recognition of the threat posed by China was also a reason why the Joint Declaration did not stress handling China. Now, 15 years later, handling China has become the biggest issue for both the Japanese and Australian governments. Both countries agree that the joint declaration should be revised to set new guidelines on how to expand security cooperation to counter China.


The new Japan-Australia Joint Declaration will set out the policy of deepening cooperation toward the promotion of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” In addition to expanding cooperation with the U.S. as well as India within the framework of the “Quad,” which is comprised of the U.S., Japan, and Australia, the new Declaration will emphasize strengthening relations with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Pacific Island nations, and European countries.


In terms of fields of security cooperation to be expanded, the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and the Australian military will place the highest priority on strengthening deterrence and response capabilities. In the event of a contingency involving China, the two countries will carry out advanced operations with the U.S. The revised declaration will make special mention of more active training and improved quality of training to enhance the effectiveness of a joint response.


The declaration will also include measures to share more sensitive information in addition to information sharing and technical cooperation in economic security as well as new domains of defense, such as outer space and cyberspace.

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