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Australia, Japan to ink new defense pact to deter China

New deal will enable US allies to station forces in one another’s countries

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison and former Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide do an elbow bump at a bilateral summit in 2021.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and former Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide do an elbow bump at a bilateral summit in 2021. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A new defense pact between Australia and Japan will be signed on Friday (Jan. 7) as the two countries voice increasing concern about Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific.

The Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) will enhance bilateral defense exchange between the two countries, which are expected to conduct more joint training exercises and host one another’s units going forward. It also sends a strong message of deterrence to Beijing, said Tokyo’s ambassador in Canberra, Yamagami Shingo.

“This is a historic, landmark agreement. This will benefit the entire Indo-Pacific region because certainly, it will dramatically increase the deterrence in this region,” Yamagami said, per a report by the Australian Financial Review.

“There is no question that both Japan and Australia have the United States as their closest ally. But this increased contact, close cooperation between Canberra and Tokyo, is good for the region,” he added.

Both Japan and Australia have expressed grave concern about the prospect of China invading Taiwan. Both being staunch U.S. allies with a strong interest in preserving security in the region, Japan and Australia are seen as the two countries aside from the U.S. most likely to come to Taiwan’s aid were a conflict to break out in the Taiwan Strait.

Peter Jennings, director of Canberra-based think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, also praised the agreement, saying it will deliver practical solutions.

“Japanese F-35s could access our training ranges to practice missions over land, Australian submarines and warships could operate out of Japanese military bases,” he said.

Jennings recently recommended the Australian government invite Japan, the U.K., and India to station forces in northern Australia, which he calls “the essential southern rampart of the Indo-Pacific.” He says the area will be a critical asset for the U.S. and its allies to operate from and counter Chinese attacks in the event of a protracted conflict in the Taiwan Strait.