Japan, Australia to sign defense cooperation pact amid China's rise

Tokyo, Japan | Thu, January 6, 2022

In a virtual meeting Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison will sign a treaty to facilitate joint exercises as their countries seek to strengthen defense cooperation in the face of China’s growing military influence in the region.

The leaders are also expected to reiterate their commitment to achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The Reciprocal Access Agreement will improve interoperability and collaboration between the Japanese and Australian defense forces.

It will allow for faster deployment of defense personnel as well as less restrictive transportation of weapons and supplies for joint training and disaster relief operations. After the United States, Australia will be the second country to sign such an agreement with Japan.

Tokyo will also try to reach an agreement with Britain, with whom it began talks in October, and with France. Japan and Australia agreed to begin talks on the RAA in 2014 and reach a broad agreement in November 2020, but Japan’s death penalty system was an impediment to reaching an agreement.

Australia, which has abolished the death penalty, initially called for their personnel to be exempted from the death penalty for crimes committed in Japan.

According to the agreement, the country sending troops to the other country retains jurisdiction over crimes committed by their personnel while on mission, but the host country has jurisdiction if such personnel are on leave.

The two countries will also form a joint committee to work out details on how to carry out the agreement, such as extradition of criminals. The move comes as Canberra sees Beijing as a growing security threat.

China has increased economic pressure on Australia after Canberra asked Beijing to look into the origins of the novel coronavirus discovered in the Asian country.

Japan and Australia are members of the Quad framework, which also includes the US and India, and Kishida expressed eagerness to strengthen ties with the fellow democracies during his New Year press conference on Tuesday.

Kishida had planned to visit Australia in January to sign the agreement, but she changed her mind to focus on the COVID-19 response in Japan.

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