Japan set to protect Australian military assets in defense pact

Tokyo, Oct 19 (efe-epa).- Japan and Australia are to collaborate toward a framework that will allow the Asian nation to protect Australian military assets even in non-combat situations, the defense ministers of both countries said Monday.

Nobuo Kishi welcomed Linda Reynolds to Tokyo for discussions on where to deepen military cooperation.

As a result of the talks, Australia will become just the second country — after the United States— to strike a protection agreement with Japan.

Tokyo passed a law allowing Japan’s Self-Defence Force to protect the military assets of foreign countries contributing to Japan’s defence back in 2015.

“In light of the growing bilateral defence and security relationship, the agreement will improve administrative, policy, and legal procedures to facilitate joint operations and exercises,” the ministers said in a joint statement.

The move comes as Japan and Australia look to beef up their military vigilance in the Indo-Pacific region given the recent increase of Chinese military activity.

“The Ministers reinforced their strong opposition to any destabilising or coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions in the East China Sea. They expressed their intention to continue to coordinate closely on the security environment in this region,” the statement said.

“They reaffirmed their serious concern about recent incidents, including the continued militarisation of disputed features, dangerous or coercive use of coast guard vessels and ‘maritime militia’, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ resource exploitation activities.”

Kishi told reporters that Japan, Australia and the US were planning to undertake military drills near the South China Sea, according to the Kyodo news agency.

The two ministers also expressed their “strong concern” over North Korea’s repeated breaches of UN security council resolutions, including ballistic missile launches.

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