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WASHINGTON — Australia and Japan have just signed an historic security agreement. This new pact formalizes the security cooperation that began in secret between the two nations in the 1970s, and which has been moving forward in leaps and bounds since the early 1990s. It specifies a number of areas for security cooperation, including counterterrorism, maritime and aviation security, peace operations and disaster relief. It foreshadows further intelligence collaboration and high-level strategic dialogue. While the agreement itself is not binding, the prospect of a formal security treaty between Australia and Japan has been floated.

Australia and Japan are natural allies. They are liberal democracies with similar economic and political values. They are the United States’ closest security partners in the Asia-Pacific. And like the U.S., they are essentially “outsiders” in this part of the world. U.S. professor Samuel Huntington has described Australia as a “torn country,” a society divided over whether it belongs to Asia. Despite Japan’s geographical location, Huntington describes it not as an Asian power, but as “a society and civilization unique to itself.”

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