Japan and Australia are poised to sign an expanded security declaration as China's military might increases – ABC News

Japan and Australia are poised to sign an expanded security declaration as China's military might increases
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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida are poised to sign a new declaration on defence cooperation in Perth this weekend as both nations grapple with the implications of China's swelling military might, and an increasingly dangerous strategic outlook.
Mr Albanese will host Mr Kishida in Western Australia this Saturday for talks focusing on national security, energy cooperation and the troubled global economy.
When they met in Tokyo earlier this year, the two leaders said Japanese and Australian officials were working on a new "Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation", updating a landmark pact signed by prime minister John Howard and former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in 2007.
The ABC has confirmed the new declaration is expected to be released by both leaders this weekend.
The news was first reported by Japanese outlet Kyodo on Monday morning.
The ABC has been told the 2007 agreement is now "out of date", and the new pact will be much more "ambitious" and complement the Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) which Mr Kishida and former prime minister Scott Morrison signed in January after years of negotiations.
The 2007 declaration focuses heavily on law enforcement, border security, counter- terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
It says Japan and Australia will "strengthen cooperation" to resolve issues, but only specifically references threats posed by terrorism and North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
But since 2007, Beijing has massively increased its naval forces, as well as militarising swathes of the South China Sea by building up land features armed with fighter jets, advanced missile systems and other military equipment.
Earlier this year, China also responded to a visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by launching massive live-fire military exercises in seven zones surrounding the island.
In addition, Chinese coastguard ships have repeatedly harried Japanese vessels in disputed areas of the East China Sea in recent years.
The national executive director of the Australian Institute for International Affairs, Bryce Wakefield, said both Australia and Japan recognised that the strategic landscape had shifted dramatically since the first agreement was signed.
"A lot has changed since 2007, both in terms of regional security as well as in Japan's legislative arrangements around defence policy," he told the ABC.
Dr Wakefield said the new declaration might include "some sort of general statement that Japan and Australia will work against actors seeking to change the status quo in the region by force, which would be a not-so-veiled reference to Chinese designs on Taiwan."
"However, I would be surprised if China was mentioned specifically in the new arrangement," he said.
"There's really no need. Everyone knows what this arrangement is about."
The Lowy Institute's Asia Power Index shows US power has grown under the Biden administration while the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened China's rise regionally.
Japan and Australia have already ramped up military exercises over the last five years, including with partners like India, and with the United States, which has formal military alliances with both Tokyo and Canberra.
In 2015, former prime minister Shinzo Abe also passed new security laws that reinterpreted Japan's constitution and allowed Japan's Self Defence Forces more powers.
"Changes to Japan's Self Defence Force Law in 2015 were designed to enable Japan to more effectively counter China's grey zone tactics, such as the use of Chinese 'civilian' fleets to bolster expansive maritime claims in the area," Dr Wakefield said.
Meanwhile, Japanese and Australian politicians are continuing to scrutinise the Reciprocal Access Agreement, which still needs to be ratified by parliaments in both countries.
The RAA establishes a legal framework to allow Japan and Australia to station troops in each other's countries, as well as making it easier to conduct joint military training and humanitarian relief operations.
Dr Wakefield said the RAA was a "legal framework allowing Australian and Japan to work within each other's territories", whereas the security agreement will "outline what the forces will actually do".
"Much as Scott Morrison was keen to trumpet the RAA as a security pact, it was nothing of the sort," he said.
"It's up to subsequent agreements, presumably such as the one [to be] announced in Perth, that will really define the contours of cooperation."
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