Japan and Australia have signed a “landmark” defence deal in the face of China’s rising military might.The Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), a treaty to ease restrictions on the movement of weapons and supplies for joint training and disaster relief operations, is the latest regional security pact aimed at countering China’s military adventurism.
The agreement, signed in a virtual summit between Prime Ministers Fumio Kishida and Scott Morrison on Thursday, was “a landmark instrument which will elevate security cooperation between the nations to new heights,” the Japanese leader said.
Mr Morrison said signing the RAA was a “pivotal moment for Australia and Japan” that will “form an important part” of the two countries’ response to “the uncertainty we now face”.
The deal comes in the wake of the recent nuclear-powered submarine deal, called Aukus, between Australia, Britain and the US, and the deepening of defence relations between the UK and Japan.
Alessio Patalano, Professor of East Asian strategy at King’s College London, said the RAA deal supports a wider and more robust cooperation on defence.
“Aukus is very much Australia’s way of getting the UK and US to cooperate with them on science and technology.
“RAA is what [Japan and Australia] need to start training to bring capabilities together to be useful in the future. It’s a practical agreement but invites further conversations.”
Unlike Nato, there is little commonality across partner nations in Asia to allow military systems to work alongside each other. The RAA deal will allow political discussions about how to deepen military cooperation in the region.
“That’s why it’s so important,” Mr Patalano told The Telegraph. “It’s the beginning of translating talks about cooperation into military effectiveness.
“It creates a more complex [security] web for the Chinese to have to deal with…but there’s not much they can do about it.”
With the Aukus and RAA deals signed in the last six months, “it shows US allies getting together,” Mr Patalano said.
“The Chinese will not be opening a bottle of champagne today.”
Concerns over China’s military posture in the South China Sea and aggression towards Taiwan have led Japan to move away from its post-war constitutional constraints on the use of military force.
It is likely Japan will seek to extend the RAA treaty to include Britain, particularly given the opportunities created by the UK-Japan deal signed in December 2021 to develop engines for future jet fighters.
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