SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will visit Japan sometime soon to sign a new defense pact that would facilitate mutual visits by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the Australian military, the Australian Financial Review reported on Tuesday.
In Tokyo, Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will sign the Reciprocal Access Agreement that has been under negotiations for six years, according to the report.
Australia, which has been increasingly vigilant against China’s vigorous maritime expansion in the Indo-Pacific region, apparently hopes to display its enhanced defense cooperation with Japan with the aim of containing Beijing’s moves.
For Morrison, it would be the first official overseas trip this year.
It would be the first time for Suga to meet with a foreign leader in person in Japan since he took office in September.
The two are expected to exchange opinions on international affairs, following the declaration of victory in the US presidential election by Democrat Joe Biden, who has vowed to enhance international cooperation. The United States is allied with both Japan and Australia.
The Reciprocal Access Agreement is designed to lay out a legal framework to be applied to Japanese SDFs and Australian military personnel who temporarily stay in each other’s territories.
Negotiations on the pact had been protracted due to Australia’s concerns that a member of its military might be sentenced to death in Japan if convicted of murder or other serious crimes committed in the country. Australia does not have the death penalty.
In recent years, prime ministers of the two countries have been making mutual visits.
Morrison was initially scheduled to visit Japan in January this year but the trip was postponed due to large-scale wildfires in Australia.