This content was published on January 5, 2022 – 10:41 AM
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia and Japan set to sign a treaty to boost defense and security cooperation at a virtual summit on Thursday, as part of the latest move to strengthen ties amid China’s growing military might and economic weight in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the two leaders would sign a reciprocal access agreement, which will for the first time establish a framework for cooperation between the defense forces of the two countries.
“This treaty will be a declaration of the commitment of our two nations to work together to address the common strategic security challenges we face and to contribute to a secure and stable Indo-Pacific,” Morrison said in a statement Wednesday.
The strengthened security ties build on efforts by the United States, Japan, India and Australia – dubbed the Quad – to work on common concerns about China, including its pressure on Taiwan, the trade disputes and freedom of navigation in the region.
China responded by saying that bilateral treaties should promote regional confidence, peace and stability.
“It must not target or harm third party interests,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Wednesday during a daily press briefing when asked about the treaty.
Australia and Japan also plan to discuss opportunities to strengthen government and business partnerships on clean energy, critical technologies and materials.
“Our cooperation also includes an expanding Quad program with India and the United States, and our common technology-driven approach to reducing carbon emissions,” said Morrison.
The top Japanese government spokesperson said that “common important challenges will be frankly discussed” at the summit.
“Relations between Japan and Australia will be further strengthened, and towards the achievement of a free and open Indo-Pacific, we will reaffirm our cooperation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters on Wednesday.
Kishida said on Tuesday he would forgo overseas visits before the start of the next session of parliament on January 17 to focus on putting in place anti-pandemic measures. He had previously planned to visit Australia in person, according to media reports.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Additional reporting by Emily Chow in Beijing and Kantaro Komiya in Tokyo; Editing by Michael Perry and Frank Jack Daniel)