Ja­pan deal to counter China rise

DAR­WIN STRAT­EGY FOR TOKYO’S MIL­I­TARY

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - PRIMROSE RIORDAN

Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary could con­duct ex­er­cises out of Dar­win un­der a his­toric de­fence agree­ment be­ing ne­go­ti­ated by Mal­colm Turn­bull and Shinzo Abe, as part of a mul­ti­pronged strat­egy to counter China’s grow­ing in­flu­ence in the Indo-Pa­cific.

The wide-rang­ing agree­ment, which will also al­low mil­i­tary equip­ment and am­mu­ni­tion to be trans­ported far more eas­ily be­tween the coun­tries, will be pro­gressed dur­ing the Prime Min­is­ter’s trip to Tokyo next week, as Aus­tralia faces a grow­ing row with China over gov­ern­ment crit­i­cism of Bei­jing’s Pa­cific aid.

Af­ter of­fi­cial Chi­nese me­dia branded Aus­tralia an “ar­ro­gant over­lord’’ in the Pa­cific this week, Samoan Prime Min­is­ter Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Maliel­e­gaoi yes­ter­day added to the diplo­matic storm, say­ing he was shocked by In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Con­cetta Fier­ra­vanti-Wells’ public crit­i­cism of China’s Pa­cific aid and de­manded a for­mal apol­ogy from Can­berra.

“I think she should apol­o­gise — and apol­o­gise very soon to stop the fur­ther dam­age in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Aus­tralia and Pa­cific lead­ers,” Mr Tuilaepa told The Week­end Aus­tralian.

Mr Turn­bull will ar­rive in Tokyo on Thurs­day to meet the Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter, who has been keen to amend his coun­try’s post-World War II con­sti­tu­tion to give the mil­i­tary a more le­git­i­mate role on the world stage.

Aus­tralia and Ja­pan have cham­pi­oned build­ing up re­gional al­liances — such as the re­vived Quadri­lat­eral Se­cu­rity Di­a­logue be­tween Ja­pan, In­dia, the US and Aus­tralia — in the face of China’s in­creas­ing dom­i­nance in the re­gion.

Mr Turn­bull has said he and Mr Abe will dis­cuss a new vis­it­ing

forces agree­ment, a type of ar­range­ment that Ja­pan has with one other coun­try — the US.

“We are work­ing to for­malise this in our re­cip­ro­cal ac­cess agree­ment that will fur­ther en­hance our de­fence in­ter­op­er­abil­ity,” the Prime Min­is­ter said in a state­ment.

The Week­end Aus­tralian un­der­stands the deal is ex­pected to be signed this year, and that the move would pave the way for the Ja­panese Self-De­fence Force troops to train in Aus­tralia.

Aus­tralian Strate­gic Pol­icy In­sti­tute head Peter Jen­nings said he ex­pected the deal would al­low for Ja­panese forces to con­duct ex­er­cises in Aus­tralia.

He said the deal would also ce­ment Aus­tralia as Ja­pan’s No 2 se­cu­rity part­ner.

“The ser­vice that we’re prob­a­bly least close to is the Self-De­fence Force army, and that’s partly a re­sult of Ja­pan’s own his­tor­i­cal con­straints on send­ing their forces abroad for co-op­er­a­tion,” Mr Jen­nings said.

“So I’d ex­pect there’d be an op­por­tu­nity for more army en­gage­ment, in­clud­ing, iron­i­cally enough, per­haps out at Dar­win,

maybe do­ing tri­lat­eral ac­tiv­i­ties with the US marines there.”

In the largest sin­gle at­tack mounted by a for­eign power on Aus­tralia, Ja­panese fight­ers and bombers at­tacked Dar­win port, killing 252 Al­lied per­son­nel and civil­ians, on Fe­bru­ary 19, 1942.

In es­tab­lish­ing the le­gal sta­tus of Aus­tralian forces when they visit Ja­pan or vice versa, it would sim­plify land­ing rights for air­craft and ships, ac­cess to fuel and es­tab­lish how mis­con­duct cases in­side each mil­i­tary are dealt with while abroad.

“In­stead of it be­ing quite a pro­duc­tion to en­sure land­ing rights for the RAAF air­craft to visit a base, it’s just go­ing to be­come a much more rou­tine thing,” Mr Jen­nings said.

Mar­itime fric­tion be­tween China and Ja­pan re­mained high this week af­ter a Chi­nese frigate sailed near the dis­puted Senkaku, or Diaoyu, is­lands in the East China Sea.

Aus­tralia, Ja­pan and the US sent a strong mes­sage about the strength of their al­liance at a meet­ing be­tween Mr Turn­bull, Mr Abe and US President Don­ald Trump on the side­lines of the East Asia Sum­mit in The Philip­pines in Novem­ber.

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment also launched a pro­gram to counter for­eign in­ter­fer­ence last year, which is now seen by some Western democ­ra­cies as a lead­ing ex­am­ple in deal­ing with covert ac­tiv­i­ties by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. The Washington Post has re­ported that a US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in­ter­a­gency group probe into “the grey area” of Chi­nese covert in­flu­ence was catal­ysed by the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment’s warn­ings on the is­sue.

The Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship and the mis­sile cri­sis on the Korean penin­sula will also be on the agenda at the Turn­bull-Abe talks.

“Ja­pan is at the front­line of the North Korea nu­clear threat,” Mr Turn­bull said. “The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, and par­tic­u­larly part­ners in Asia, must work to­gether to max­imise pres­sure on North Korea and ef­fec­tively im­ple­ment UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil sanc­tions against the regime.”

A for­eign min­is­ter-level meet­ing in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, con­vened by the US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and Canada’s Chrys­tia Free­land, will be held in Van­cou­ver on Fri­day but China looks un­likely to at­tend.

Aus­tralia’s re­la­tion with the com­mu­nist coun­try have be­come rocky again af­ter Se­na­tor Fier­ra­vanti-Wells ac­cused China of lend­ing funds to Pa­cific na­tions on un­favourable terms, con­struct­ing “use­less build­ings” and “duchess­ing” lo­cal politi­cians.

Mr Tuilaepa, whose na­tion has taken on loans from Bei­jing, said the com­ments would harm re­la­tions with Pa­cific lead­ers.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate that the de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter should say those com­ments which are ex­tremely in­sult­ing to the in­tel­li­gence, in­tegrity and wis­dom of all of us — the lead­ers of the Pa­cific Is­land na­tions — who know our own back­yard bet­ter than any­one else,” Mr Tuilaepa said.

“It would cer­tainly harm the ex­cel­lent re­la­tion­ship that we have with Aus­tralia, be­tween the Pa­cific lead­ers.”

He said all the projects China had funded in Samoa were on the re­quest of Samoan lead­ers and China pro­vided as­sis­tance where Aus­tralia did not.

“I think she should com­pli­ment the Chi­nese for com­ing in to com­ple­ment what is pro­vided by Aus­tralia,” he said.

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