Security relationship with Japan is just the beginning for Australia – Analysis – Eurasia Review
By Shiro Armstrong *
Australia has become Japan’s most important security partner after the United States. Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and is at the heart of performance in Australia’s Greater Neighborhood and globally.
As Prime Minister Scott Morrison today hosts Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a virtual leaders’ summit to solidify deepening security relationship, leaders will need to reinvent the relationship to address the many challenges common to peace , to the regional prosperity and stability they both face.
As stated in the Australian Financial Review the long-awaited Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) will be signed today and will allow the defense forces of both countries smoother and faster access to operate in the other country. The RAA gives Australia a status shared only by the United States in Japan, and comes at a time of growing concern over China’s use of its growing military influence and a more complex security environment.
A shared interest in a free, open, inclusive, resilient and prosperous region extends Mr. Morrison’s and Mr. Kishida’s agenda far beyond security cooperation to deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership of the two countries which s ‘builds on decades of cooperation and regional order-building.
The strategic priorities are to keep the United States locked militarily and economically in the Western Pacific, collectively shape Chinese behavior, and lock the United States and China into new multilateral rules that ensure open and contestable markets.
Strengthening the multilateral economic order to create space for China, the United States and other major emerging countries in South and Southeast Asia is a priority for Australia and Japan today. . This requires strengthening and building a security architecture around the framework of the American alliance that incorporates mutual assurances on the use of political power in the region. The framework of the American alliance is only one important aspect of security in our region. The security sought without economic integration – which is inseparable in East Asia – is limited and fleeting security. For Southeast Asia, economic integration with its powerful neighbors is another important source of security. What is true for Southeast Asia is true for all of East Asia.
The open multilateral trading system has been a source of economic resilience for Australia in the face of trade coercion. An architecture that guarantees the opening of contestable markets alongside security arrangements diffuses both economic and political power.
The idea of such a comprehensive security framework is exactly what inspired Japan’s constructive and active diplomacy in the 1980s. It is an idea that was also championed by leading strategic thinkers in Indonesia, a vital partner. in any effort to strengthen regional security and economic architecture.
No country, no matter how small, should dominate the Asia-Pacific or Indo-Pacific region, and multilateral principles can set terms of engagement that help to restrict the exercise of gross political power.
The pursuit of comprehensive regional security to create space for great powers to coexist in a multipolar world will require close cooperation with ASEAN, the United States and China, with leadership in ideas and diplomacy. from Australia and Japan. Regional economic engagement will be needed from the United States and India to further anchor the Chinese economy in international markets that limit the use of economic leverage by all major powers. Political strategies based on this understanding of the common regional interests of Australia and Japan will need to move away from the current political frameworks of Canberra and Tokyo.
The annual leadership summits between Australia and Japan are now in place. Before 2014, it was rare for a Japanese Prime Minister to visit Australia. The deep and broad relationship with trust and familiarity is all the more remarkable considering its origin at the end of WWII.
Faced with the challenges of pandemic recovery, climate change and strategic competition from the great powers, there is no room for complacency in the bilateral Australia-Japan relationship.
For the two countries, trade in energy and resources has supported an increasingly deep strategic relationship, but this economic relationship will need large-scale transformation as both accelerate the decarbonization of their economies.
With the two countries now strategically so close and important to each other, do we understand each other and what exactly shapes and constrains the political choices in each of our capitals? Do the Japanese outside of Kasumigaseki and Nagatacho, the bureaucratic and political quarters of Tokyo, know the strategic importance of Australia to them? How many Australians in political circles know what Kasumigaseki and Nagatacho are?
Significant and renewed investment is needed in both countries for the next phase of the relationship. Deepening understanding, stimulating exchanges and cooperation and leveraging the strengths of the relationship can help achieve more than the bilateral agenda. Succeeding Japan will also help Australia succeeding Asia.
Australia and Japan are anchors of peace and prosperity in the world’s most important region. Whether they stay that way will depend on how they build and use the bilateral relationship, and that’s still a project for the future.
* About the author: Shiro Armstrong is Director of the Australia-Japan Research Center at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University and led the production of the major independent report commissioned by the Australia-Japan Foundation on Reinventing the relationship with Japan.
Source: This article was published by East Asia Forum