The prime ministers of Australia and Japan met on Nov. 17 to sure up bilateral relations between the two nations and committed to deepening cooperation as tensions mount in the Indo-Pacific region.
In a joint media statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the countries reaffirmed their Special Strategic Partnership and agreed to expand bilateral relations through a new landmark agreement, the “Japan-Australia RAA.”
They also underlined the importance of maintaining free and open markets as well as enhancing the resilience of supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region to help promote trade and investment.
“With a view to contributing to peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, the Leaders determined to elevate bilateral security and defence cooperation under the Special Strategic Partnership to a new level,” the joint statement read.
The “Japan-Australia RAA,” a bilateral reciprocal access agreement, will facilitate cooperative joint defence initiatives between Australia’s and Japan’s militaries and disaster relief operations. It will also provide procedures for each military to enter the other’s jurisdictions which will improve the interoperability of the forces of the two countries.
The two leaders also discussed the importance of stopping COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus; issues in the South China Sea; the importance of upholding democracy in Hong Kong; nuclear weapons non-proliferation; North Korea; cooperation with Pacific island countries; and ASEAN.
“The Leaders decided to coordinate efforts to mitigate the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19, particularly in the Indo-Pacific, and to accelerate the development and equitable access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and safe, effective and affordable vaccines for COVID-19,” the statement read.
Australia and Japan will also cooperate on World Health Organisation reform to “ensure it has the authority and capability to prevent and mitigate future pandemics.”
Morrison and Suga will strengthen cooperation to assist Pacific island counties in responding to the CCP virus, including support for health systems and economic assistance. They also committed to more in-depth collaboration on maritime security priorities in the Pacific island region.
“The Leaders also committed to further enhancing coordination with like-minded countries, including through existing opportunities, such as the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (Japan-Australia-US) and Trilateral Defence Ministers’ Meeting (Japan-Australia-US), the Japan-Australia-India-US quadrilateral meetings, and various dialogues with ASEAN, particularly the East Asia Summit as the region’s premier forum for strategic dialogue,” the statement read.
The two prime ministers also spoke about resuming cross-border travel between the two nations to facilitate economic recovery and people-to-people links, as well as cooperate on energy, and agricultural production to help in overcoming the challenges presented by the CCP virus pandemic.