Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds made her first official visit to Japan to further strengthen bilateral defence ties with her Japanese counterpart Kono Taro and Japanese PM Abe Shinzo.
The ministers referenced increasing military cooperation in the form of exercises such as Bushido Guardian and Talisman Sabre 2019, which saw Japan deploy a recently-formed amphibious brigade that is designed to respond to a potential crisis in the Senkaku Islands, which are disputed with China.
“The Ministers committed to building on this momentum in 2020, deepening the Special Strategic Partnership between the two countries and aimed at contributing to a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” Minister Reynolds said in a statement.
The two ministers also announced a number of agreements: regularising the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s (SDF) participation in Exercise Pitch Black from 2020 and fighter exercise Bushido Guardian in Japan; progressing the establishment of an Australian Army liaison officer in the Japan Ground SDF; and the establishment of a program to exchange defence scientists and engineers between Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency and Australia’s DST Group.
The Ministers also ‘reaffirmed their intention to develop defence cooperation among Australia, Japan and the US’.
The absence of India from the statement is notable given efforts in recent years to revive the Quad security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the US, widely seen as a mechanism to align the four powers in balance against a rising China.
The revival has yet to see all four powers conduct a joint military exercise, possibly because of India’s unwillingness to antagonize China. The two countries have butted heads over disputed border demarcations in the Himalayas.