The leaders of Australia and Japan have signed a “historic” defence treaty that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said would “contribute to a secure and stable Indo-Pacific” as China expands its military and economic clout in the region.
The treaty was signed during a virtual summit between Morrison and his Australian counterpart, Fumio Kishida on Thursday.
Called the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), the treaty is only Japan’s second such agreement.
Its only other military pact is with the United States, a status of force agreement that dates back to 1960.
Morrison called the signing of the RAA a “pivotal moment for Australia and Japan” that will “form an important part” of the two countries’ response to “the uncertainty we now face”.
The treaty will also “underpin greater and more complex engagement in operability between the Australia Defence Force and Japan Self-Defense Forces,” he said.
The RAA’s signing follows more than a year of talks, and Japan’s Kyodo news agency said the pact will facilitate joint exercises, the faster deployment of Japanese and Australian military personnel as well as ease restrictions on the transportation of weapons and supplies for joint training and disaster relief operations.
Kishida hailed the agreement as “a landmark instrument which will elevate security cooperation between the nations to new heights”.
Kyodo said Japan will also seek to sign such a pact with the United Kingdom as well as France as the two European countries “have been increasing defence cooperation with Tokyo in response to an increasingly assertive China“.