SYDNEY — Foreign and defense ministers of Australia and Japan agreed to sign a pact to make cooperation between their armed forces easier.
Full agreement will be sought when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visits Japan next month. By signing the treaty, Japan will essentially become a “quasi-ally” with Australia, allowing the Self-Defense Forces to significantly strengthen their ties with the Australian armed forces in various fields, including unit management and equipment. Both Japan and Australia are allied with the United States.
Japan sent Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani to the “two-plus-two” meeting on Nov. 22. The Australian side was represented by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Defense Minister Marise Payne.
Nakatani said Japan’s collaboration would become “a strategic model for the Japan-U.S.-Australia coalition.”
The pact will be Japan’s first mutual status of forces agreement, which legally defines how a foreign military force operating in another country is handled. This will determine what local laws the troops will be exempt from, including the handling of accidents and crimes, the movement of military vehicles on public roads and frequencies of radio bandwidths to use during exercises.
Foreign and defense ministers of Australia and Japan also reaffirmed their common stance of opposing China’s unilateral actions in the South China Sea, such as the construction of artificial islands, and in the East China Sea, at a meeting in Sydney.
The ministers “expressed strong concern over the recent situation in the South China Sea and reiterated their strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions that could alter the status quo” in the sea, according to a joint statement to wrap up the so-called two-plus-two meeting.
While reaffirming “the importance of promoting the rule of law at sea,” the members also underscored their “strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions that could alter the status quo in the East China Sea,” according to the statement.
The two-plus-two meeting, the sixth of its kind between the Asia-Pacific nations, was held for the first time since Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull formed his government in September and attended by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani from Japan and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defense Minister Marise Payne from Australia.