Reports have come out that Japanese and Australian officials have finally concluded their negotiations on a reciprocal access agreement (RAA). If the reports are accurate, the negotiators will now forward their "ad referendum" (for referral) agreement for signing at the planned summit between Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Scott Morrison in July.

The RAA covers what is required for the Self-Defense Forces to operate in and around Australia, and for the Australian Defense Force to do the same in Japan. The reciprocity of the agreement is why it is termed a reciprocal access agreement rather than a “visiting forces” or “status of forces” agreement, and its provisions cover things such as taxation, basing, entry and exit procedures, and criminal jurisdiction.

In other words, the issues covered in the RAA are mundane to most observers save for those terms and conditions related to major incidents and accidents. For example, how do the two governments respond legally if an SDF member kills an Australian civilian in a freak training accident? These situations are much trickier to negotiate; in fact, one of the critical sticking points for the RAA was Australia's reticence to allow any of its members to be vulnerable to the death penalty under Japan's legal system.