Japanese Troops May Train in Australia
Tuesday, February 6, 2007 Posted: 02:29 PM JST
(by Linda van Engelenburg) - Japanese troops may soon be able to train on Australian soil. This will be done under a bilateral defense and security agreement which is still being negotiated by the two parties.
Australia and Japan have been discussing a defense and security cooperation agreement for more than a year. Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to sign the agreement next month, when Prime Minister Howard is expected to travel to Tokyo. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that the agreement would not lead to military exercises, but rather to co-operation on disaster relief.
The co-operation pact will provide joint military exercises, regular meetings between foreign and defense ministers, exchanges of officials and closer work on regional challenges such as North Korean nuclear proliferation. It will be Japan's first bilateral security agreement, other than the US-Japan alliance. Japan and Australia already have military links. They worked together in Cambodia, East Timor and Iraq.
The agreement between Australia and Japan will be the first step towards Japanese troops training in Australia for an expanded role in international peacekeeping efforts. Later this year Prime Minister Abe will launch his campaign to change the 60 year old constitution to allow Japan Self-Defense Forces a more active military role, such as using armed force to protect peacekeeping missions.
But the prospect of Australia establishing closer military ties with Japan is likely to create concerns for China, which has a very difficult relation with Japan. Prime Minister Howard has reassured China it has nothing to fear as Australia and Japan establish new defense ties. And that the agreement is not in any way directed against China. That is why he stressed the fact that it does not commit Australia to go to Japan's aid in time of war, like the Anzus treaty does with Australia and the United States.
Prime Minister Abe himself is trying to repair Japan-China relations after deterioration during the term of his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi. He is expecting the visit of the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in April.
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