A new military Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) between Australia and Japan has come into effect, giving the two countries stronger defence ties.
The RAA provides the legal framework for closer military cooperation between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF). It is only the second such agreement signed by Japan after the US.
The agreement will see more training and exercises held between the two countries, leading to the ADF and JSDF being better able to integrate their forces operationally and for the many humanitarian and disaster response (HADR) events common in the Indo-Pacific region.
Japan and Australia already attend several major exercises, including the recent biennial Exercise Talisman Sabre, the Pitch Black air defence exercise in the Northern Territory, and the huge Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise in Hawaii every two years.
The first event under the new RAA is expected to be the deployment of a squadron of JASDF F-35A Lightning fighters to RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory at the end of this month, while the RAAF will reciprocate with a deployment of its own F-35As to Japan in early September for Exercise Bushido Guardian air defence exercise.
Tindal sits aside the vast Delamere and Bradshaw training ranges which provide almost limitless airspace for air combat manoeuvring and a number of ground target ranges for dropping live weapons.
In December, the ADF will participate in Exercise Yama Sakura – a joint command post exercise held with the US at various locations in Japan – as a full participant for the first time.
“The Reciprocal Access Agreement will deepen the relationship between our respective defence forces, supporting closer cooperation and strengthening the capabilities of both the ADF and the JSDF,” Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles said in a release.
“Both Australia and Japan recognise the increasing complexity of our security environment and the need to grow our partnership to support a stable and prosperous region.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Penny Wong added: “Australia and Japan share an aspiration for a stable, peaceful and prosperous region, and this bilateral Reciprocal Access Agreement will help us deepen our defence cooperation.
“The security and defence relationship between Australia and Japan is critical to both nations, and is underpinned by our Special Strategic Partnership.”
Japan and Australia are increasingly operating similar equipment – including the F-35A and the Aegis combat system – and share similar force structures. The two countries also share similar security concerns about the geopolitical state of the Indo-Pacific region.