The treaty will be signed at a virtual summit, after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida postponed his trip to Australia due to rising Covid-19 cases.
The development is significant as it comes a few months after the AUKUS security pact brought Australia, the UK and the US together in a defence arrangement involving supply of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia to counterbalance China’s military prowess. Both Japan and Australia are treaty allies of the US.
Meanwhile, foreign minister S Jaishankar also spoke to his Australian counterpart on Wednesday and discussed means to expand ties in 2022.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Kishida will meet in a virtual summit to sign the agreement, which Morrison said “will underpin greater and more complex practical engagement between the Australian Defence Force and the Japanese Self-Defence Forces”.
“Australia and Japan are the closest of friends,” Morrison said. “Our special strategic partnership is stronger than it has ever been, reflecting our shared values, our commitment to democracy and human rights and our common interests in a free, open and resilient Indo-Pacific region.”
Morrison said the two leaders would sign a Reciprocal Access Agreement, which would for the first time set out a framework for the two countries’ defence forces to cooperate with each other. “This treaty will be a statement of our two nations’ commitment to work together in meeting the shared strategic security challenges we face and to contribute to a secure and stable Indo-Pacific,” Morrison said in a statement, without directly naming China.
“Our cooperation also includes an expanding agenda for the Quad with India and the United States, and our shared technology-led approach to reducing carbon emissions,” Morrison said.
The Quad does not have a military component and focuses primarily on vaccines, high-tech, development projects, maritime security, disaster management and cyber security.
Australia and Japan, during Thursday’s summit, also plan to discuss opportunities to strengthen government and business partnerships on clean energy, critical technologies and materials.
Last month, Japan approved a record defence budget amid growing threats from China. The amount at 5.4 trillion yen ($47.2 billion) for the year starting in April marks the 10th straight increase in annual defence spending and exceeds the ceiling of 1% of the gross domestic product. Australia also plans to increase its budget for defence and associated issues. India has emerged as a key partner for Australia in the Indo-Pacific region.