There is some really bad news for China. Two of the Communist nation’s biggest rivals- Australia and Japan, have got together to take on China with a reciprocal access agreement and enhanced missile range to push back against Beijing.
Australia and Japan are about to sign a reciprocal access agreement to enable easier access for the militaries of the two countries in each other’s territories for exercises and other military activities.
Nikkei Asia has claimed that the reciprocal access agreement will be signed next year. In fact, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida wants to conclude the agreement soon and seek the approval of the Japanese Parliament in 2022.
This is a huge department in Japan’s foreign and military policy. Traditionally, Tokyo has allowed access to only American military personnel as the United States has a Status of Forces Agreement with Japan, enabling the deployment of American military forces throughout Japanese territory. For the first time, Japan is going to look beyond the US and allow access to troops of a non-US ally.
As per Nikkei, an agreement with Australia would “streamline both countries’ complex entry procedures for foreign defence forces and equipment, which have become increasingly burdensome as the two engage in more joint exercises”.
Canberra and Tokyo were negotiating the reciprocal access agreement since 2014. However, there were certain obstacles including the risk of Australian military personnel being subject to capital punishment. Now, the two countries have agreed that Australian troops will be exempt from Japanese jurisdiction in cases involving discharge of official duties, but in other cases, they will be subject to Japanese law.
Australia and Japan encouraging defence cooperation
With China posing a combined threat to democratic powers like Canberra and Tokyo, both Australia and Japan have been looking to cooperate more extensively in the security sector.
Japan and Australia have been involved in several joint and multilateral military exercises including the Exercise Talisman Sabre since 2015 and even the Malabar Exercise. Similarly, Australian Forces have also taken part in a military exercise in Japan, deploying air assets in exercises like Exercise Bushido Guardian in 2019.
In 2019, a decision was made between Australian and Japanese Defence Ministers, following which Australian Army officer Major John Howlett became the first Australian Army liaison officer to take up the post in Japan from January this year. A Japanese military officer will take up a corresponding post in Australia next year.
Japan is warming upto Australia in a big way. It has already struck a deal allowing defence equipment transfer and intelligence sharing with Australia, along with an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement that allows the two countries to share fuel and other supplies.
Japan enhances its missile range
Japan has been quickly shunning its post-War pacifism since the Shinzo Abe era. In a bid to counter China’s assertive behaviour and aggressive military posturing near the Senkaku Islands, Tokyo has become increasingly aware of the need to sharpen its defences. This is why Tokyo also seems to be strengthening defence cooperation with Canberra.
Meanwhile, Japan is also looking to bolster its own military strength. Nikkei has reported that Japan is planning to enhance the capability of its cruise missiles to hit targets over 1,000 kilometers away.
The Japanese Defence Ministry wants to deploy such missiles by the latter half of this decade and they will be capable of being launched through all three mediums- air, land and water.
This is a part of Japan’s desire to create a deterrent effect against Chinese aggression. Nikkei quoted a senior Defence Ministry official as saying, “As neighboring countries proceed with missile development, Japan will also need equipment to enhance deterrence.”
Japan’s decision to upgrade its cruise missiles is an apparent reaction to China’s efforts of increasing the number of its launchers by nine times over the past one decade to 82. Japan is no longer reliant on the strategy of shooting down incoming missiles and is now looking to develop offensive capabilities for overcoming China’s hegemony and military aggression.
Japan is China’s biggest rival in the East Asia region. With the increasing rivalry between Japan and China, Tokyo is now going all out in its efforts to tame the paper Dragon. It is sharpening its own defences and reaching out to Australia, and this suggests that China is in for some big trouble.
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