TOKYO: Japan and Australia on Monday agreed to start work on having the Japanese Self-Defense Forces protect Australian military assets including vessels and aircraft, an apparent joint effort to counter China’s maritime advances.
The agreement was reached in talks between Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and his Australian counterpart, Linda Reynolds, in Tokyo.
If realized, it will be the second such defense cooperation framework for Japan following the one with the United States.
The move is “of great significance to the peace and security of Japan as well as defense cooperation between Japan and Australia,” Kishi told reporters after the talks.
The protection of Australian military assets is based on Japan’s national security laws of 2015, which opened the way for the SDF to protect equipment of U.S. and other foreign forces while using weapons to some extent.
In the three years to 2019, the SDF protected U.S. vessels and aircraft 32 times under the laws.
“The SDF will not engage in such protection in areas where acts of combat take place. They will not get involved in any armed conflicts,” Kishi told reporters.
In a joint press conference, Reynolds said that Australia and Japan will expand their defense partnership in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region.