Defense Minister Taro Kono and his Australian counterpart, Linda Reynolds, agreed Wednesday that an Australian Army liaison officer will be permanently stationed with the Ground Self-Defense Forces as part of efforts to boost military cooperation between the two countries.

The ministers announced the agreement in a joint statement they issued after a meeting in Tokyo.

The two also agreed that fighter planes from the Air Self-Defense Forces will take part in Australia’s Pitch Black multilateral joint exercise for the first time next year, while also regularizing the two countries’ Bushido Guardian joint exercise in Japan, according to the statement.

Kono and Reynolds also agreed to establish an exchange program between Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency and Australia’s Defense Science and Technology Group.

The ministers shared their grave concern over China’s naval expansion in the South and East China seas. They agreed to continue talks on a pact to facilitate smooth interactions between the SDF and the Australian military during joint operations and exercises.

“Japan and Australia share fundamental values, so I would like to advance bilateral defense cooperation,” Kono said.

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