Deepen security cooperation for regional stability

It is significant for Japan and Australia to deepen their security cooperation in order to respond to coercive actions by China, which has proclaimed itself a “strong maritime country.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese met and signed a new joint declaration on security. This is the first time in 15 years that the two countries have issued a joint declaration specifically aimed at security issues.

With a rising China in mind, the joint declaration states that the two nations will “consult each other” on contingencies that may affect their sovereignty and regional security interests, and “consider measures in response.”

Although there is no security treaty between Japan and Australia like that between Japan and the United States, the aim of the joint declaration is to work even more closely together on security cooperation. It is envisioned that in the event of an emergency in the Taiwan Strait, Japan and Australia would impose sanctions against China and cooperate with each other’s defense authorities.

Japan and Australia are building a relationship similar to that of allied nations, through such measures as signing a defense agreement in January this year to facilitate joint exercises between the Self-Defense Forces and the Australian military. It is hoped that they will continue joint drills and improve their response capabilities.

China has been stepping up its presence in the South China Sea. It is expanding its influence over the South Pacific island nations through such measures as signing a security agreement with the Solomon Islands in April. Activities like this, which seem to be turning the South China Sea into a military stronghold, are destabilizing the region.

Japan has built a relationship of trust with South Pacific nations through such measures as organizing Pacific Islands Leaders Meetings. Japan needs to strengthen relations with them, for example through cooperation on climate change issues, which are of great concern to these countries.

Both Japan and Australia are allies of the United States. Close cooperation with the United States is essential in enhancing deterrence.

Last year, the United States established the AUKUS framework with Britain and Australia for technical cooperation on submarines and other technologies. Washington intends to deploy nuclear submarines in Australia.

Japan also needs to be actively involved in such efforts to strengthen the alliance. Japan currently limits the transfer of defense equipment overseas for purposes such as rescue and transportation. It is advisable that Japan review this and consider measures to deepen technical cooperation with other countries.

In order to counter China, which is rapidly building up its military capabilities, it is also vital for Japan to strengthen multilateral cooperation, such as the Quad framework of Japan, the United States, Australia and India.

During their meeting, the Australian and Japanese leaders also confirmed cooperation in the energy sector.

Japan depends on Australia for nearly 40% of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports. With concerns over LNG imports from Russia, Japan would like to gain Australia’s cooperation, but the energy situation is difficult on the Australian side as well.

The Japanese government should tenaciously negotiate with foreign countries to secure a steady LNG supply.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 25, 2022)