The “indispensable” strategic partnership between Japan and Australia
The Honorable Richard Marles, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, describes deepening Japan-Australia bilateral ties at an OPRI-SPF event
By Jackie Enzmann, Chief Editor
January 13, 2023
4 Min. Read
SPF welcomed Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles to the foundation to discuss the Japan-Australia security partnership.
On December 9, 2022, the Ocean Policy Research Institute of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (OPRI-SPF) welcomed the Honorable Richard Marles, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, to the foundation for a discussion about deepening Japan-Australia ties in the face of shared security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
In the opening remarks for the event, SPF President Atsushi Sunami pointed to the increasing pace of high-level exchanges between the two countries, including the recent visit by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Australia as well as the QUAD Leaders' Meeting held in Tokyo, as indicative of the growing ties between Japan and Australia. He also commented on the central role of the two countries in the region, arguing that “as major powers in the Indo-Pacific, Japan and Australia are expected to develop the 'Free and Open Indo-Pacific' initiative proposed by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.” He concluded with the hope that the lecture would “promote further deepening and expansion of strategic partnership” between the two countries.
SPF President Atsushi Sunami
Next, Deputy Prime Minister Marles delivered the keynote address, in which he underscored Japan’s position as an “indispensable partner” and emphasized Australia's commitment to deepening the strategic partnership between the two countries in the face of growing threats in the region and around the world.
He pointed to two key developments that have spurred deepening ties: the Reciprocal Access Agreement that streamlines both countries’ ability to deploy military assets to each other’s territory, as well as the updated Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, which clarifies the objectives of collaboration in security issues, and includes a “serious commitment” to consult on contingencies that impact sovereignty or regional security interests.
These agreements, according to Deputy Prime Minister Marles, will not only increase interoperability between Japanese and Australian defense forces, but also support greater trilateral cooperation with the U.S. He also argued they will facilitate cooperation in advanced capabilities such as undersea warfare, integrated air and missile defense, as well as expanded regional cooperation for humanitarian relief in the Pacific.
The Honorable Richard Marles, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence
“These two agreements now give Japan and Australia the bilateral architecture to ensure our defense and security cooperation is commensurate with our strategic alignment,” he explained, also noting that both countries are actively reassessing their national defense strategies in response to the changing security environment.
Deputy Prime Minister Marles also warned of shared threats facing both Japan and Australia, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has brough the post-Cold War era to an end, and China’s military expansion. On China, he characterized the military buildup as the largest since WWII, and said it constitutes “the most significant factor shaping the strategic landscape in which Japan and Australia exist.”
Later, during a discussion with OPRI President Hide Sakaguchi, Deputy Prime Minister Marles touched on the AUKUS agreement, a security pact between Australia, the UK, and the U.S. concluded in 2021, which will support Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines.
OPRI President Hide Sakaguchi (right) and Deputy Prime Minister Marles in discussion
He characterized the agreement as a “capability and technology partnership" that forms "part of a broader network Australia seeks to build, and in which Japan is central.” When asked about Japan's involvement, he commented that that this would be a possibility once the current countries can confirm that the agreement successfully delivers on the promise of new technologies. “I absolutely think there is the opportunity to involve Japan in the work that we are doing, and I think that’s a view that is shared by the UK and the U.S.” he said.