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Blazing the way forward in Japan-Australia security ties

11 6 0

NIIGATA - At their latest “two plus two” foreign and defense ministerial consultation in 2018, the Australian and Japanese governments reaffirmed their intention to conclude negotiations on an agreement that will “reciprocally improve administrative, policy and legal procedures to facilitate joint operations and exercises.”

Observers of the Australia-Japan security relationship will note that six months have elapsed since that meeting with no finalized agreement, adding that it has been over four years since the two countries first decided to enter negotiations on it. The delays and challenges associated with the negotiation may lead some to believe there are strategic-level seams between Australia and Japan; however, when examined from a broader perspective, the deliberate nature of this process reveals the true importance of this agreement as an epoch-making template for Japan’s 21st century security relationships.

Known as the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), this instrument of alignment is not only important for the increasingly close security relationship between the two Indo-Pacific powers, it serves as a template both in language and in negotiating process for Japan’s other prospective security partners. Once the intergovernmental negotiation is complete, it will be important to monitor how Japanese lawmakers interpret it during Diet deliberations. The outcome of this entire process will establish an important precedent that will inform Japan’s security relationships for years to come.

The RAA represents the next step in the bilateral Australia-Japan security relationship that gained new life in 2007 with the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation. Since then, the two countries have engaged in routine security dialogues at the two plus two ministerial level. They signed an updated acquisitions and cross-servicing agreement in 2017 to provide the legal framework for mutual logistics support.

In 2018, the two countries signed a general sharing of military information agreement to open the door to broader intelligence sharing. All the while, the two countries have been stepping up engagement between the Australian Defense Force (ADF) and the Self-Defense Forces, with exercise participation and observation within each other’s territory in Exercise Talisman Saber, Yama Sakura and others.

The next step is to formalize the arrangements........

© The Japan Times