Japan, Australia sign bilateral defense logistics agreement

by Masami Ito

Japan and Australia signed a bilateral defense logistics agreement Wednesday in Tokyo to strengthen security cooperation between the two nations.

The Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, signed by Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and their Australian counterparts, would enable the two governments to provide food, water and medical services to the Self-Defense Forces and the Australian Defense Force.

The agreement would take effect in cases such as peacekeeping operations, disaster relief activities, humanitarian international relief operations and joint military training.

“This is a historic moment for Japan and Australia,” Australian Defense Minister John Faulkner said after the signing of the agreement. “The signing of the ACSA is symbolic of a new stage in our bilateral defense relationship.”

This is the second agreement of its kind that Japan has signed, following one with the United States.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the difference between the two agreements is that the one with the U.S. would also take effect when Japan is attacked or under threat of being attacked, or in perilous situations in areas surrounding Japan.

Okada brushed aside concern that signing the agreement with Australia may cause friction with China, stressing that the nature of the agreement with Sydney was different from that of the U.S. There have been several recent cases of military maneuvering by the Chinese military, including a Chinese marine vessel claiming to be involved in seafloor research that confronted a Japan Coast Guard ship.

The agreement would take effect “in peacekeeping operation activities and major disasters, and I don’t think China would be worried or react against,” Okada said.

The bilateral agreement explicitly excludes providing the other country with weapons and ammunition, but a special exception was made for components of warships and military vehicles and aircraft.

This is the first “two-plus-two” meeting held since the Democratic Party of Japan took power last August. The four ministers also agreed to strengthen cooperation for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, and enhance bilateral security ties for humanitarian aid, peace-building and antiterrorism measures.