Japan and Australia are set to strengthen their military ties further with the signing of the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) to counter the Chinese influence in the region.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison will be meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday, during which they are likely to sign the defense pact.
A Japanese foreign ministry official has indicated that “there will be something to announce from the meeting”. The pact has been under negotiations for six years and would require final approval from the lawmakers.
There were reports earlier this year that Japanese and Australian officials have finally concluded their negotiations on a reciprocal access agreement (RAA). The defense pact will allow Japanese forces to operate in and around Australia, and for the Australian troops to do the same in Japan.
According to the Japan Times, the provisions of the deal include taxation, basing, entry and exit procedures, and criminal jurisdiction. The negotiations process took six years due to complicated issues like how do the two governments respond legally if an SDF member kills an Australian civilian in a freak training accident.
This is the first such agreement after 1960 Status of Forces Agreement with the United States where foreign country could base warships, fighter jets and thousands of troops in and around Japan as part of a military alliance.
The pact holds extreme importance to counter Chinese militarization of the South China Sea, its maneuvers around disputed islands in the East China Sea, and Beijing’s growing influence over Pacific island nations further east.
China has used its Belt and Road Initiative to influence the countries in Indo-Pacific region. Many small countries such as Laos and Cambodia have come under the burden of Chinese debt, resulting in Beijing holding important posts in exchange.
Quad countries – the US, India, Australia and Japan – have also come together to nudge the Chinese dragon. With the change of power likely in the US, Japan has been assured by President-elect Joe Biden that Washington is obliged to defend Japan if its territories come under attack. The same will be applied to the defense of Okinawa Prefecture and the Senkaku Islands.