U.S. allies Australia and Japan agreed to share more sensitive intelligence and deepen their military cooperation as they signed a security pact aimed at countering China’s rising military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
Prime Ministers Fumio Kishida and Anthony Albanese inked the accord at the annual Australia-Japan Leaders’ Meeting in the Western Australia capital Perth on Saturday as they updated a 2007 pact, to respond to a changed regional security environment, reported Reuters.
The earlier 15-year-old agreement had been drafted when terrorism and weapons proliferation were the overriding concerns.
“This landmark declaration sends a strong signal to the region of our strategic alignment,” said Albanese, hailing the ‘connectt Declaration on Security Cooperation’.
Without citing China or North Korea by name, Kishida said the agreement was a response to an ‘increasingly harsh strategic environment’.
In their fourth summit since Albanese took office in May, the two leaders said the agreement would serve “as a compass” for security cooperation for the next decade and agreed to consult and study responses to emergencies that could affect regional security, said an AFP report.
Albanese and Kishida also discussed climate change, and expressed support for a regional transition to net zero carbon emissions, boosting investment in clean energy tech and both countries are committed to net zero by 2050.
Under the bolstered accord, the two countries agreed that their military forces would train together in Northern Australia, and would “expand and strengthen cooperation across defence, intelligence sharing,” reported Reuters quoting Australian officials.
International affairs expert Bryce Wakefield told AFP, Australia and Japan do not have armies of overseas intelligence operatives and foreign informants needed to play in the major leagues of global espionage, but they have remarkable signals and geospatial capabilities — electronic eavesdropping and high-tech satellites that provide invaluable intelligence on adversaries.
Japan does not have a foreign spy agency equivalent to America’s CIA, Britain’s MI6, Russia’s FSB or Australia’s much smaller agency ASIO.
Wakefield, director of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, said the agreement could have larger significance for Japan by providing it a template to accelerate intelligence ties with countries like Britain.
Some even consider the pact to be a key step towards Japan joining the powerful Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance between Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
“It is an epoch-making event for Japan. This will also strengthen the Quad (Australia, India, Japan and the United States) and is the first step for Japan joining the Five Eyes,” Ken Kotani, an expert in the history of Japanese intelligence at Nihon University told AFP.
Such a proposition would have been impossible a few decades ago. But events in Japan’s neighbourhood have forced a rethink of the country’s pacifist policies established after World War II, Kotani added.
As reported extensively by WION, in recent years, North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles over and around Japan, while China has built the world’s largest navy, revamped the globe’s biggest standing army, and amassed a nuclear and ballistic arsenal right on Japan’s doorstep.
Kishida told reporters that the signing of the updated joint security declaration was one of the biggest achievements of his visit.
“I expressed my determination that all necessary options for the defence of our country, including the counterstrike capability, would be contemplated. Japan’s defence capability will be fundamentally reinforced in the next five years,” he said.
(With inputs from agencies)
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