“This landmark statement sends a strong signal to the region about our strategic direction,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said after signing the deal in Perth, Western Australia. His Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, said the deal was a response to an “increasingly difficult strategic environment,” without naming China or North Korea.
The Australia-Japan Defense Agreement provides for closer cooperation in the exchange of defense and intelligence information. Neither Japan nor Australia have an intelligence apparatus comparable to MI6 in the US or Great Britain – much less Australia’s secret service, ASIO. Joint military exercises are also planned in Northern Australia.
In response to China’s growing military might
The two countries had already signed an initial defense cooperation agreement in 2007, when China’s rise was less of a concern. However, since then, Chinese defense spending has more than quadrupled. While 22 Chinese military aircraft had to be intercepted in Japanese airspace in 2006, the number rose to 722 last year.
Kishida’s visit is the fourth meeting with Albany since the Australian government’s election in May. The Defense Treaty was the first treaty Japan signed with a country other than the United States.
Reduce dependence on China when it comes to raw materials
Kishida and Albanese advocated closer cooperation in the mining, environment and energy sectors. Japan is an important buyer of Australian gas and intends to develop rare earths in Australia in the future.
Many of the metals required for the production of many high-tech products, including the construction of wind turbines or electric cars, are rare earths. China currently dominates the world production of these minerals. There are fears that Beijing could cut supplies for political reasons.
rb/se (AP, AFP, Reuters)
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