Japan and Australia are getting about as close as they can on security issues for the time being, with the two “semiallies” inking an agreement over the weekend that creates a consultation mechanism for responding to “contingencies” — a term often used to describe a conflict over Taiwan.

It will be the first such mechanism involving Japan, outside of its alliance with the United States, and is a signal of the growing importance both Tokyo and Canberra have placed on their partnership, observers say.

“This will help to build a stronger shared baseline from which to plan for regional security crises ahead of time, not just in response to unfolding events,” said Tom Corben, a foreign policy and defense research fellow at the University of Sydney’s U.S. Studies Center.