Tracking the Pathway to a ‘Quasi-alliance’: Japan’s Policy toward Australia from 2013 to 2022

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The Way to a “Quasi-ally”: Japan’s Policy to Australia, 2013-2022
Satake Tomohiko

As Japan’s alliance with the United States drew closer in the post-Cold War era, two US allies saw their relationships with Japan change in strikingly contrasting ways. On the one hand, the Japan-ROK relationship grew rockier, especially in the decade after 2011. On the other, the Japan-Australia relationship climbed to new heights, visible already in the 1990s but booming with increasing clarity after Abe Shinzo became prime minister at the end of 2012. This essay focuses on how Japan’s policy toward Australia evolved during this critical decade of drawing closer. If prior to that the United States was understood to be Japan’s sole alliance partner, the situation by 2022 is that Japan has essentially acquired a second, highly valued ally.   

How did this significant turnabout occur? The answer can be found in Japanese thinking about security policies, its alliance framework with the US, and its perception of regional order in the Asia-Pacific or, as it would decide, the Indo-Pacific region. A second source of transformation originated in Australia, which came to appreciate the need for a new framework beyond its alliance with the United States. Undoubtedly, both countries were impacted by their perceptions of China’s behavior. Although the Australian side figures into this assessment, the objective here is to trace Japan’s shifting thinking over the course of a decade with emphasis here on the early years.

Thinking toward Australia in the Two Decades before the Abe Era

Security cooperation between Japan and Australia had already began as early as the 1990s. During the 1990s, Japan and Australia collaborated on wider regional security issues, such as peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, multilateral institution-building as in the ASEAN Regional Forum, and nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The reinvigoration of their respective alliance relationships with the United States in the mid-1990s also cemented the two countries’ traditional roles as “northern and southern anchors” of the US military presence in the region.1 In this transitional time of optimism about broad-ranging regionalism in Asia, the two countries saw each other as kindred spirits in institution building, reaching beyond the US in reshaping the broader, still ill-defined region.     

From the early 2000s, Japan’s Self-defense Forces (SDF) and Australia’s Defense Force (ADF) directly collaborated in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond during peace-keeping operations in East Timor, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) activity after the Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquake, and humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Japan and Australia also actively supported the US-led “war on terror” and contributed to counter-terrorism and proliferation security initiatives after the September 11 attack in 2001. As a result, the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue between the United States, Japan, and Australia, which was originally launched in August 2002, was upgraded to the ministerial level in March 2006. In March 2007, the two countries signed a historic Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation. At the same time as Japan successfully pressed for the expansion of ASEAN + 3 (Japan, South Korea, and China) to ASEAN + 6 (adding Australia along with India and New Zealand as the East Asian Summit), the security dimension of bilateral ties rose to the fore, albeit centered on humanitarian cooperation and support for each’s US alliance.

The end of the 2000s and beginning of the 2010s had the potential to set back momentum in this bilateral relationship. Changes in government on both sides turned attention for a time away from China’s expansionist tendencies. Yet, while incipient talk of the Quad (Japan, the US, Australia, and India) quieted, security ties kept advancing. A close security partnership between Tokyo and Canberra continued even under the Australia Labor government (December 2007-September 2013) and the Democratic Party of Japan’s government (September 2009-December 2012). During this period, the two concluded the Acquisition and Cross-Service Agreement (ACSA) in March 2010 and also the Information Security Agreement (ISA) in March 2012.

Bilateral and trilateral military training with the United States increased rapidly, especially after the establishment of the Security and Defense Cooperation Forum (SDCF) among the three countries in February 2008. By the time the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan led by Abe Shinzo returned to the government in December 2012, therefore, Japan’s security cooperation with Australia had matured a great deal. The relationship had acquired a momentum of its own, rather independent of each state’s ties to China or even to the United States, although those would soon be drivers too.

On the Japanese side, what accounts for the two decades of improving bilateral relations? A key factor was interest in constructing a framework in the western Pacific to boost Japan’s presence as a net provider of security in a region still undergoing transformation. If in the early 1990s Japan’s focus was more on Northeast Asia, it soon evolved to Southeast Asia and beyond to the Indian Ocean. Seeking a liberal order and a continuing role for the US to maintain that order, Japan found Australia to be the ideal partner: an ally of the US, an advocate of similar balance and values, and a state looking for a new regional role. Yet until 2013 the relationship was centered on rather low-key cooperation. That would change with Abe’s shift to a “pro-active” foreign policy.   

Japan’s Approach to Australia in 2013-16

During his first term as prime minister between 2006 and 2007, Abe recognized Australia as a “very important partner” along with the United States.2 He also pushed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the “Quad”), later explaining that he had focused on Quadrilateral cooperation even when he was the chief of the cabinet under the Koizumi administration (2001-2006). Looking at many problems with neighboring countries, such as North Korea and China, Abe thought that Japan should pursue “diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.”3 This mainly meant taking a broader view of maritime Asia.

Returning to power and finding an amenable partner in Prime Minister Tony Abbott (2013-15), Abe upgraded Japan’s cooperation with Australia to a “Special Strategic Partnership.” Australia came to be recognized as Japan’s second most important security partner next to the United States, or what some Japanese people label a “quasi-ally.” The Abe administration also pushed historic cooperation with Australia toward the joint production and development of Australia’s next-generation’s submarine project, although it did not materialize. In the Indo-Pacific, where multilateral defense cooperation such as NATO does not exist, Australia and India were the only countries that Japan could rely upon except for the United States, argued a former Japanese diplomat.4 Only if Japan had a diplomatic backbone sustained by solid relations with those democratic countries could it manage difficult relations with North Korea and, especially, China. This was basic thinking that shaped Abe’s approach to the Indo-Pacific. He saw relations with regional democracies and with China as two sides of the same coin.

In this context, Abe strengthened Japan’s strategic relations with both Australia and India, as well as reinvigorated the alliance relationship with the United States. In his article “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond,” Abe suggested that Australia, India, Japan, and the United States “form a diamond to safeguard the maritime commons stretching from the Indian Ocean region to the western Pacific.”5 Japan’s first National Security Strategy (NSS), adopted in December 2013, named Australia as “an important regional partner that shares not only universal values but also strategic interests with Japan.” In addition to strengthening economic relations, the NSS stated, “Japan will also strengthen its strategic partnership by steadily sharing strategic recognition and advancing security cooperation.”6

Australia also had a conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, who in September 2013 called Japan the “closest friend in Asia,” welcoming its greater security roles, including its exercise of the right of collective self-defense that was strongly pushed by Abe.7 When Abe expressed Japan’s “deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war” in his statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Abbott welcomed those words as they would “make it easier for other countries to accept Japan’s commitment to a better future for all, and to strengthen their own friendships with Japan.”8 It is said that the two prime ministers had good chemistry supported by their conservative beliefs and background.

Abe welcomed Abbott to Japan in April 2014, asking all ministers to join a luncheon meeting. Abbott even participated in a special meeting of Japan’s National Security Secretariat (NSS) for the first time as a leader of a foreign country.9 At the meeting, Abe expressed his gratitude for the support from Australia for Japan’s “Proactive Contribution to Peace” and stated that he would like to further strengthen security cooperation between Japan and Australia. Abe and Abbott also agreed to begin negotiations for an agreement on a framework for cooperation in the field of defense equipment and technology. And they confirmed elevating the “strategic partnership” between Japan and Australia to a new “special relationship.”10

Abbott’s visit brought an “in principle” agreement on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), following negotiations launched by Abe and Prime Minister John Howard in December 2006, which had stumbled over how to deal with forest and iron ore products in the market access. With these issues finally solved by Japan’s significant concessions. Australia became Japan’s largest bilateral EPA partner with an expected “domino effect” to other economic frameworks, such as TPP, by pressuring the United States to compromise on tariff reductions on beef and other agricultural products.11

Abe visited Canberra in July 2014, expressing at the Australian Parliament, his “great and whole-hearted gratitude for the spirit of tolerance and for the friendship that Australia has shown to Japan” after World War II, adding: “Today I stand in front of you, who represent the people of Australia, and state solemnly that now Japan and Australia will finally use our relationship of trust, which has stood up through the trials of history, in our cooperation in the area of security.”12 Given in English with an “Aussie accent,” Abe’s speech was welcomed.13 Abbott praised it as an “extraordinary address” that conveyed a “deep and heartfelt message” to the parliament.14 The opposition leader Bill Shorten also welcomed it and said the friendship between Australia and Japan ran deeper than “treaties or trade agreements, summits or state dinners.”15

Their joint statement, “Special Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century,” agreed to deepen the bilateral security and defense relationship through enhanced training and exercises, increased personnel exchanges, and deepened cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security, peacekeeping, capacity building and trilateral security cooperation with the US. The two leaders also decided to commence negotiations to improve administrative, policy, and legal procedures to facilitate joint operations and exercises, later known as the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA). Moreover, Abe and Abbott signed the Agreement Concerning the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology, which opened the way for Japan to cooperate in Australia’s next generation submarine project through joint research, development, and production.16

Meanwhile, practical cooperation between the SDF and the ADF developed through joint activities in regional contingencies, such as HA/DR activities in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, the search for Malaysia Airline Fright 370, which went missing during a flight from Malaysia to China, and the US-led multilateral humanitarian mission Pacific Partnership 2014 to train in simulated crisis-conditions as well as provide medical care, veterinary services, and infrastructure development for Southeast Asia and South Pacific countries. Throughout these activities, the interoperability between the SDF and the ADF gradually improved.

While strengthening Japan’s strategic cooperation with traditional allies and partners, the Abe administration simultaneously improved Japan’s relations with China. In November 2014, National Security Advisor Yachi Shotaro agreed with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi on the so-called “four-point consensus” to improve bilateral relations. While acknowledging “different positions” regarding the tensions in the East China Sea, Yachi and Yang agreed to “gradually resume political, diplomatic and security dialogue through various multilateral and bilateral channels.”17 This led to a summit between Abe and Xi Jinping at the APEC summit for the first time in three years. After that, Japan-China relations gradually improved until a new downturn ensued, gathering steam after the Osaka G20 summit in 2019.  

Abe’s active foreign and security polices, including engagement with Australia, was sustained by his domestic popularity and strong leadership backed by his Cabinet office directly controlling Japanese bureaucrats. Establishing the NSS, gathering the “best and brightest” bureaucrats from each ministry, made it possible to forge mid- to long-term strategy, while simultaneously responding to immediate crises and contingencies. Consolidation of power in the Cabinet office enabled the Abe administration to implement active and strategic foreign policies without succumbing to bureaucratic inertia or the slow-decision making style typified by previous Japanese governments.

The Setback to the Submarine Deal

High on the agenda of the Abe administration was joint development and production of Australia’s next-generation submarine project. Although it was the DPJ-Labor period when the idea of submarine cooperation emerged, the Abe administration vigorously pushed it forward. While other countries, such as France and Sweden, also showed interest in the project, Japan was seen as the most likely candidate due to the close personal relationship between Abe and Abbott. By mid-2014, there was a rumor that Australia would purchase Soryu-class submarines built in Japan and the agreement would be soon concluded.18

However, Japan lost its dominant position as the call for domestic production in Australia became stronger from both politicians and local communities in areas such as Adelaide. In November 2014, a report submitted to the Senate Economics References Committee of the Australian Parliament concluded that there was no off-the-shelf submarine in production that would meet Australia’s requirements. The report even expressed concerns that a modified version of the Soryu class might not meet Australia’s requirements for its future submarine fleet.19

In the same month, Australian Defence Minister David Johnston, seen as a supporter of Soryu-class submarines, was forced to resign over his remarks that he would not trust the government’s shipbuilder ASC to “build a canoe.”20 In February 2015, the Australian government suddenly announced the introduction of the Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP) for the submarine tender and requested the participation of Japan, Germany, and France. It was only a minute before the announcement when Abe received a phone call from Abbott about the introduction of CEP.

Japan lost its advantage almost completely when Abbott suddenly resigned in September 2015. The next prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was said to be keen on the domestic production of submarines. The Abe government attempted to regain competitiveness by stressing the “strategic significance” of submarine cooperation between Japan and Australia. Japan’s NSS also decided to allow the export of submarine components, as well as technological information, to Australia in order to meet its demand for domestic production. However, such efforts ended up in vain when the Australian government announced its decision to choose the French shipbuilder DCNS (later renamed the Naval Group) as Australia’s partner in April 2016.

Some media speculated that Australia did not choose Japanese submarines due to concern over its relationship with China.21 Indeed, the Chinese government and its media had implicitly or explicitly pressured Australia not to choose Japanese submarines by mentioning Australia’s economic relations with China or memories of the Japanese military role during World War II.22 However, there is no clear evidence that Chinese pressure affected Australia’s decision. Instead, existing reports and interviews suggest that Australia’s decision had nothing to do with such diplomatic considerations.

According to the explanation of the Australian government, Japan’s Soryu-class did not meet the requirements in both technology and capabilities. It evaluated that French subs would be technologically superior with unique advanced sonars, futuristic stealth technology, and pump-jet propulsion instead of propellers.23 Yet such explanations never convinced Japanese officials, who thought that “the Australians had made their own set of assumptions about the data which they were given (by Japan) but they reached different conclusions from it to what Japan did.”24 Japanese officials felt it unfair that Japan had not been able to fully disclose the stealth capabilities of its Soryu boats, which were already in service, unlike French and German proposals that had not materialized yet.25 Japanese officials believed that Soryu submarines were never inferior to French subs in terms of technology and capabilities.

One cannot dismiss a domestic political factor in Australia. The Liberal-National coalition promised to build the next submarines in Adelaide during the election campaign in 2013. Calls for domestic production and open tender for the future submarine project grew stronger as media suggested that purchase of Japanese subs was predetermined given the close personal relationship between Abe and Abbott. Although Abbott initially ignored those voices, he was gradually forced to respond as his domestic popularity decreased. Abbot needed to introduce CEP to shore up support from South Australian Liberals when he faced dissent in his party.26

Of course, Japan had many problems domestically. Except for the Kantei, officials and companies were not necessarily keen on selling Japanese subs to Australia. In particular, some MSDF officials were strongly concerned about the leak of highly confidential technology to other countries through Australia. Such attitudes gave the impression to Australia that Japan was not necessarily enthusiastic about submarine cooperation. Japan also lacked the knowhow and skill in sales promotion of defense equipment due to lack of experience in arms exports, which had been prohibited in principle since the end of World War II. Indeed, it was December 2015, eight months after the announcement of CEP, when the Japanese MOD established an Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) in order to strengthen defense equipment and technology cooperation with other countries.

All in all, the failure of submarine cooperation between Japan and Australia revealed that, despite the political rhetoric of “special strategic partnership,” a true trust relationship had not existed between the two countries. Japan was skeptical about Australia’s ability to produce submarines domestically, as well as its ability to protect sensitive information. Australia, on the other hand, questioned Japan’s enthusiasm about submarine cooperation, as well as its ability to export and manage defense equipment overseas. It was actually reported that the Japanese, unlike the French, had offered Australia a downgraded version of Soryu, which may have been the decisive factor for Australia not choosing the Japanese bid.27

Some Japanese officials who promoted the submarine deal expected that Washington would push Canberra to buy Japanese subs. Except for some “Japan hands” or pro-Japan people, however, the Obama administration did not push the Japanese bid as much as Japan had expected. As a result, an unprecedented, plan for submarine cooperation ended up being a “dream.”

Close Security Cooperation Continued

When the Australian government announced the submarine decision in 2016, Japanese high-rank officials did not hide their “disappointment.” Some Japanese media reported that the failure of the submarine bid “poured cold water” on US-Japan-Australia security cooperation, which had continually been strengthening.28 Security experts in the United States argued that, despite shared anxieties over China’s rise between Tokyo and Canberra, the setback in submarine cooperation missed an important opportunity to strengthen their bilateral cooperation and even trilateral security cooperation with the United States, and to make the US-led “hub and spokes” alliance architecture “a more mutually-reinforcing latticed alliance.”29

Nevertheless, Japan continued to strengthen its security partnership with Australia even after the submarine bid. At the sixth Trilateral Security Dialogue in July 2016, the three ministers reaffirmed the importance of policy coordination, while reiterating their commitment to further deepening their cooperation to ensure “a peaceful, stable, and prosperous future for the Asia-Pacific region and the world”.30 They also reiterated the importance of upholding the rules-based maritime order including in the Asia Pacific region and the Indian Ocean. In October 2016, defense authorities signed the Trilateral Information Security Agreement (TISA) that enabled the three countries to share information, which used to be shared only bilaterally. In the same month, the foreign secretaries of Japan and Australia discussed the situation in the Pacific region and their potential cooperation in this area.31

Furthermore, Abe and Turnbull signed a new ACSA in January 2017. Reflecting Japan’s new security legislation that came into effect in March 2016, it enabled the SDF to provide goods and services, including weapons and ammunitions, for the ADF during international cooperation activities, noncombatant evacuation operations, and other related activities. With this revision, some concluded that Japan’s security cooperation with Australia had risen to “almost the same level” as that with the United States.32

Japan’s continuous engagement with Australia was clearly motivated by the continuing expansion of Chinese influence especially in the region surrounding Japan. In March 2016, China announced it would raise the fiscal 2016 defense budget by 7.6 percent, reaching about 3.7 times Japan’s military budget and more than 40 percent of the total military budget of Asia, including Oceania.33 The number of Air SDF’s scrambles against Chinese aircraft reached a record high (851 times) in FY 2016. In July 2016, a Chinese Navy’s frigate intruded into the contiguous zone surrounding the Senkaku islands for the first time. China also continued the militarization of small islands in the South China Sea despite criticisms from international community. When the International Arbitral Tribunal rejected China’s South China Sea maritime claims as having no basis in international law. China ignored the decision as a “piece of trash” and continued militarization of those islands.

Not only Japan, but Australia was increasingly worried about China’s maritime activities, especially those in the South China Sea. Australia’s 2016 Defense White Paper clearly opposed the use of artificial structures in the South China Sea for military purposes, while maintaining its neutral position over territorial claims in the region.34 The joint TSD statement in July 2016 expressed three countries’ strong opposition to any coercive unilateral actions to change the status quo and called on China and the Philippines to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal’s Award. A similar view was repeated in the joint statement of the Japan-Australia summit in January 2017.

Another factor was the emergence of the US administration led by Donald Trump. During the election campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized allies for “free riding” on US defense efforts, while turning his back on liberal norms such as free trade, multilateralism, and human rights. This shocked Japan and, especially, Australia, both of which had benefited from the US-led liberal order for many years. After the first telephone conversation between Trump and Turnbull, in which Trump abused Turnbull over the refugee deal concluded during the Obama administration, many Australian experts, including some pro-US people, began to discuss Australia’s “Plan B,” namely, Australia’s strategy without relying on the United States.35

Facing this unprecedented challenge, Japan and Australia as two regional middle powers further enhanced their cooperation to uphold a rules-based international order in the Asia-Pacific and beyond, e.g., saving the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after the US withdrawal in January 2017. During Abe’s visit to Sydney in the same month, Abe and Abbott agreed to establish TPP 11 without the United States. Both leaders worked closely to gain support from other member countries.36 As a result, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), also known as TPP11, was successfully established in March 2018.

Japan and Australia boosted their cooperation to uphold the rules-based regional order under the banner of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP). While neither country joined the US-led Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in the South China Sea, they began naval presence missions called “Indo-Pacific deployment” (Japan) and “Indo-Pacific Endeavour” around 2017. During these operations, the MSDF and the ADF Navy occasionally joined in military trainings/exercises bilaterally and multilaterally, involving the US and other navies in waters near the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.37 The Joint Statement of the eighth Japan-Australia 2+2 meeting reiterated their determination to “to maintain and promote a free, open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region founded on the rules-based international order.”38

The Abe administration revived the Quad, which had been suspended since 2008. In October 2017, Foreign Minister Kono Taro announced resumption of Quad strategic dialogues at both the foreign ministerial and summit levels. Senior officials of the four countries met six times between November 2017 and September 2020. After Quad foreign ministers’ meetings both in September 2019 and October 2020, top leaders held a video conference in March 2021, launching working groups on vaccines, critical and emerging technologies, and climate change, in addition to existing cooperation among the four in areas such as quality infrastructure, maritime security, counter-terrorism, cyber security, humanitarian assistance/disaster reliefs. Quad leaders met together for the first time in person in September 2021.

Although Australia unilaterally withdrew from the Quad in 2008, the Morrison government welcomed its revival and actively promoted it. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the country would “welcome” the development of senior officials’ meetings between the four countries a week after Kono’s announcement.39 Bishop also said the Quad is a “natural extension of these mini-lateral relationships,” such as TSD, and that Australia has a “bipartisan approach toward the Quadrilateral.”40 Labor’s shadow foreign and defense ministers clearly supported the Quad.41 After the first summit in March 2021, Morrison described Quad as “the most significant thing to have occurred to protect Australia’s security and sovereignty since ANZUS.”42

As Japan and Australia are increasingly committed to the protection of a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, bilateral defense cooperation was upgraded to a “new level.”43 In January 2022, the Japanese and Australian prime ministers signed the RAA at their virtual meeting and after 8 years of negotiations. For Japan, the RAA could enhance Australia’s defense commitment to contingencies in Northeast Asia, including Japan. Although there is a UN SOFA that can justify Australia’s use of military facilities on Japan, it could be used only in case of Korean contingencies. In responding to various contingencies, ranging from natural disasters to high-end confrontations, the RAA could make it possible for Japan to smoothly accept the ADF on its soil and jointly support the US military and its facilities. In this sense, the RAA increased the strategic value of Australia as a “supplement” to the US-Japan alliance.

Japan also began to protect weapons and other equipment of the ADF by JSDF personnel under Article 95-2 of the JSDF Law. It was only after the new Security Legislation that came into effect in May 2016 that the SDF was enabled to protect the military assets of the United States’ and “other countries’ armed forces”.44 According to an officer engaged with the legislation, those armed forces were assumed to be foreign military forces that could come to Japan in a form such as the UN command.45 Based on this decision, the SDF began to protect military assets of the US forces during joint trainings/exercises from 2017. In November 2021, moreover, the JSDF ships for the first time conducted protection activities for RAN ships during their joint training in the waters surrounding Japan. It was the first case in which the SDF conducted protection activity for a foreign country’s military other than the United States.

Toward a Formal Alliance?

Given China’s continuous challenges against the existing order, as well as its rapid military build-up, some recommend that Japan and Australia should upgrade their security cooperation to a formal alliance with a mutual defense treaty.46 However, they lack certain “mutuality” in defense relations necessarily to conclude a formal alliance treaty. Although RAA is a “reciprocal” agreement, Japan’s primarily interest lies in Australia’s deeper engagement with the defense of the Japanese homeland, and not vice versa. Similarly, the SDF’s protection of military assets of foreign countries is limited to those countries that engage in “activities that contribute to the defense of Japan,” and is only possible “in the scene where the combat activities are actually being conducted.”47

For these reasons, reservations exist in the Australian government to using the term “quasi alliance,” which is popular in Japanese security discourse, to describe this relationship.48 A subtle difference in attitudes also appeared when Australia announced the establishment of a trilateral security framework called AUKUS with the United Kingdom and the United States in September 2021. Some Japanese commentators, including a former high-ranking SDF official, argued that AUKUS should have been “JAUKUS,” including Japan.49 Yet one could hardly find such thinking inside the Australian security community. A former Japanese ambassador to Australia also pushed for Australian support for Japan to be admitted to the West’s “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network.50 Unless Japan can develop a more mature intelligence community with better secrecy obligations, however, such an idea is unlikely to gain wider support in Australia.

This by no means suggests that Japan-Australia security cooperation is unimportant. Instead, its missions will continue to grow so long as the existing regional order continues to be challenged by revisionist powers like China. Most importantly, the two countries share a common interest in maintaining the FOIP sustained by various countries and continue to find a pathway for China inn this order. If such is the case, Japan will continue work with Australia closely to realize the FOIP, uphold a rules-based regional order, and continue to expand their partnership with other like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. Japan’s relations with Australia in this context could be a “role model” for other bilateral and trilateral security cooperation in a more networked alliance structure in the Indo-Pacific in the foreseeable future.

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