Japan and Australia signed an agreement enabling them to share information affecting national security, as both countries seek to counter China’s influence.
The accord was signed in Tokyo yesterday by Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It sets out procedures for protecting information and will also enable the two countries to share data more freely with the U.S.
Japan has sought to strengthen security ties with neighboring nations over the past few years in the face of China’s growing military might. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters March 5 in Tokyo that Japan was “closely watching” China’s rising military spending and was seeking greater transparency in its Asian neighbor’s outlays.
“China has grown bigger, putting everyone on their guard, so I think that is why they are planning to join forces,” said Ikuo Kayahara, a retired major-general in Japan’s military and emeritus professor at Takushoku University in Tokyo. “But of course they can never mention this in their diplomatic or security treaties, so they refer to maintaining regional security or dealing with North Korea, which is very convenient for Japan.”
China announced March 4 that it plans to increase defense spending 11.2 percent this year to about 670 billion yuan ($106 billion).
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called Japan her nation’s “closest partner in Asia” during a visit in April 2011 after the record earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan’s northeastern regions. Gillard and President Barack Obama signed a defense agreement in November to deploy U.S. Marines on Australian bases starting this year.
The Japanese government has described Australia as its second-most important security partner, and yesterday’s pact is its fourth after agreements with the U.S., the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and France.
Japan is Australia’s second-biggest trading partner, according to government figures that showed merchandise exports totaling A$4.05 billion ($4 billion) in March and imports valued at A$1.68 billion. In 2007 the two countries signed a groundbreaking agreement on military cooperation in areas including counter-terrorism and marine security, Japan’s first such deal with a country other than the U.S.
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