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Japan and Australia Huddle Up

Defense and Foreign Ministers from Japan and Australia met on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss their countries’ relations, agreeing to strengthen defense ties as tensions in the region continue to grow. The Japan Times reports:

Although Japan does not have a security treaty with Australia, it nonetheless characterizes the country as a “semi-ally,” with their bilateral relationship recently bolstered anew by their shared “strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral” attempt to alter the status quo in the East China Sea, as was stated in Abe’s summit meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in December 2015.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Inada and Payne also agreed that the two nations will conduct a joint military drill involving fighter jets in Japan next year, in what was touted as the latest initiative to further deepen their bilateral relationship.

This is yet another example of Japan wasting no time bolstering its defenses and positioning itself to become a regional security leader. Other recent examples include joint-exercises and high-level discussions with Australia, India, and South Korea, as well as fostering a partnership with the Philippines in an attempt to prevent Duterte from pivoting too much toward China.

Japan’s rise, and the reactions it provokes in capitals across the Pacific Rim is one of the key dynamics to watch as the Trump Administration gets its own footing in the region.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    Sounds like the beginnings of a trans pacific partnership with less trans.

  • They should consider restarting something akin to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the United States, Japan, India and Australia.

    • tellourstory

      An alliance between the US, India and Japan should be easy to form because all three share the same nemesis to their interests. Australia, on the other hand, depends heavily on China’s economy and has been warming up to China a lot in recent years. Their reliability in such an alliance, one that would cause economic problems at home, would be questionable.

      • Are they not still part of the ANZUS defense treaty though?

        • tellourstory

          They are and to be fair Australia has been a valuable, solid ally for the US for many years. However, it was easier for them to remain a staunch US ally before their economy became so dependent on China. Treaties and alliances are nice in theory, but they seem to always pale in comparison to the sway of national interest.

          In WWII, Great Britain said it would support Australia against the Japanese, but that did not end up happening because Great Britain needed all the resources it could muster to defend itself and its interests. The same thing happened in Ukraine. The US and UK promised to preserve the territorial sovereignty of the Ukraine after it gave up its nuclear arsenal. Needless to say, neither the US or UK stood by their signature once Russia came over the border and the Ukrainians have been left by themselves to deal with the messy aftermath.

          The question is, will Australia put its own national interests at risk for the sake of US, Japanese and Indian interests? Furthermore, should it? It all depends on whether the Aussies view Chinese aggression as a bigger overall threat to them and their country than potential unrest due to economic backlash.

  • tellourstory

    I’m happy that Japan is being proactive in taking its security into its own hands as much as it is allowed. The Japanese have been questioning whether or not the US would fulfill its treaty obligations if they were attacked. Those worries have led to the current Japanese government to try and convince its people that Article 9, the pacifist portion of the constitution, needs to be revised or repealed. Since the Japanese people still don’t trust their government after what happened in WWII, this is a hard sell to say the least.

    The issue of trust also plays a role in the viability of Japan’s alliances. China and South Korea still hold grudges against the Japanese and they’re wary of any increased militarization by them. South Korea’s deteriorating relations with China are pushing them in Japan’s direction, but that doesn’t mean they like or trust the Japanese. The rest of the neighborhood has more or less forgiven the Japanese for their actions, but trusting them is another matter.

    This also plays a role in Japan’s attempts to form a long standing relationship with Australia. As I understand it, many Aussies have forgiven the Japanese and have no real problem with them. However, there are still many others who don’t trust them and that makes an alliance between them shaky. There’s also the economic factor of the relationship, in which China has far more to offer Australia than Japan does. Australia may not want to jeopardize its domestic economy for a security alliance with Japan.

    It’s a difficult situation to navigate and I wish the Japanese the best of luck.

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