• Kyodo

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Japan and Australia are arranging for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to visit Japan in January, aiming to bolster their bilateral security cooperation by striking a broad agreement on a new pact, government sources said Monday.

The envisioned “visiting forces agreement” is aimed at facilitating joint drills amid the growing military threat from North Korea and China’s maritime assertiveness in the East and South China seas, according to the sources.

The two governments hope an agreement in principle on the pact will be reached at a meeting between Turnbull and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, they said.

Japan views Australia, along with the United States and India, as a vital partner under Abe’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy designed to counter China’s rising activities in waters in the region.

The agreement would allow the two countries to bring military equipment and ammunition onto each other’s soil more easily when the Self-Defense Forces and the Australian military conduct exercises.

In January this year, Tokyo and Canberra signed a revised acquisition and cross-servicing agreement that enables the SDF and the Australian military to supply each other with ammunition.

Unlike the similar Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, the planned accord involving Australia does not presuppose a long-term stationing of the Australian military in Japan.

Japan also aims to reach a similar pact with Britain, with Tokyo and London planning to launch negotiations in the near future.

During the meeting, Abe and Turnbull are also expected to confirm their commitment to putting more pressure on North Korea in cooperation with the United States, the sources said.

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