Australia and Japan have officially inked a landmark security treaty in a virtual ceremony, formalising a new defence pact between the two nations.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison solemnised the “historic” reciprocal access agreement from the cabinet room in Parliament House while his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida joined via videolink on Thursday afternoon.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference just hours ahead of the ceremony, Mr Morrison said Australian and Japanese forces will be able to seamlessly train in both countries, at each other’s facilities and during humanitarian missions.
“We could be completely interoperable between what we can do and how we deploy together,” he said.
“I do not just mean hostile circumstances, I mean also in the Indo-Pacific for humanitarian purposes, (in) which Japan is very active, as is Australia.”
Mr Morrison said the security treaty, being Japan’s only reciprocal agreement, underscored its significance and highlighted the trust between the two countries.
He recalled standing with former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at a war memorial in Darwin, saying it was one of the most important moments of his prime ministership.
“(It) is probably one of the most significant moments I can recall … to stand with the Japanese prime minister honouring our fallen in Australia from the second World War.
“I cannot put into words what it is about, and here we are, two countries, a few generations later, concluding an agreement such as this, it is truly breathtaking and remarkable.”
The agreement has been in train for more than half a decade, emerging under former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Mr Morrison said he had worked with three Japanese prime ministers over as many years to ink the landmark treaty.
Japan’s Ambassador to Australia Shingo Yamagami welcomed the agreement, telling AAP it was a new chapter in the two countries’ security co-operation.
“In light of the deteriorating security environment, what Japan and Australia can do together is first of all to increase deterrence,” he said.
The treaty follows China’s criticism of the Quad partnership formed between Australia, Japan, India and the US, as well as the AUKUS pact, under which Australia is exploring the purchase of nuclear-powered submarines.
When asked about the treaty at a daily news briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said bilateral treaties should promote regional trust, peace and stability.
“It should not target or harm any third party interests,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
Senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Malcolm Davis said Japan recognised the important of establishing firm defence partnerships to deter an increasingly aggressive China.
“Japan is breaking away from its post war constitutional constraints on the use of military force because Tokyo recognises the challenges its facing from China,” he told Sky News.
“There is a territorial dispute between China and Japan … and more significantly there is a growing concern China will make a move over Taiwan in the next few years.”
The treaty will also enable Japan and Australia to collaborate on clean energy and critical technologies.