Japan and Australia are expected to conclude in mid-January a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which would foster smooth operation of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and the Australian military when either visits the other nation, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. The news is important as military exchanges between the two countries have been quite frequent in recent years.


Japan's Defense Ministry commended the prospect of military cooperation with Australia on its official website. It described Australia as an important partner of Japan in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan and Australia, both allies of the US, follow the same values of democracy, legal system, human rights and capitalism, so they share common strategic interests in safeguarding their security.


Tokyo also highlighted the Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation released in March 2007, the first such joint document in the realm of security with a country other than the US, as a milestone of defense exchanges and cooperation between Japan and Australia. Then Australian prime minister John Howard and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed the statement.


Combined with the Japanese Defense Ministry's flattering words of "common values" between Japan and Australia, Abe's conception of an Arc for Freedom and Prosperity may have clearly surfaced.


In fact, Abe has paid extraordinary attention to development and foreign cooperation in the field of defense. Although Japan's pacifist constitution still plays a nominal role, Abe on the one hand, introduced new security legislation, lifted a ban on the right to collective self-defense and provided legal basis to gradually achieving the goal of rearming. On the other hand, the Japanese leader strengthened the combat capability of the SDF by increasing the defense budget. The 2018 defense budget has been increased, marking a rise for six consecutive years.


In addition to increasing the military might, Japan, especially the Abe administration, has also paid considerable attention to enhancing military cooperation with foreign countries. This will not only help Japan to improve the combat capability of the SDF but also acquire the international community's approval for Japan's military power. Military cooperation with other countries will help Abe gain favorable international opinion to go ahead with a constitutional amendment.


In this context, Japan has attached great importance to military cooperation with Australia since Abe retook office in 2012.


The VFA, proposed in 2015, is an important part of military cooperation between Tokyo and Canberra. Japan's Asahi Shimbun pointed out on November 23, 2015, that the agreement would make Japan's relationship with Australia into a "quasi-alliance." If Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visits Japan this month and signs the VFA, it will be a victory of sorts for Abe.

VFA是在2015年提出的,是东京和堪培拉之间军事合作的重要组成部分。日本《朝日新闻》(Asahi Shimbun)于2015年11月23日指出,这项协议将使日本与澳大利亚的关系成为一个“准联盟”。如果澳大利亚总理马尔科姆•特恩布尔(Malcolm Turnbull)本月访问日本,并签署VFA协议,那将是安倍晋三的一场胜利。

Since the purpose of military cooperation between Japan and Australia is to maintain regional peace, the association should not be aimed at a third country. Only by dispelling doubts of the outside world, could their military cooperation contribute to the peaceful development of the Asia-Pacific region.


Unfortunately, the truth is not so simple. Since 2013, Japan has repeatedly mentioned the South China Sea issue and China's maritime development when promoting military cooperation with Australia. On November 1, the Asahi Shimbun also wrote that Tokyo should cooperate with India and Australia on the basis of the Japan-US alliance. Its focus is to contain China.


China has no intention of interfering with the diplomatic and military policies of Japan and Australia. However, if military cooperation between the two countries is launched on the premise of targeting another country as a hypothetical enemy, such a partnership will not contribute to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan has been emphasizing that a constitutional amendment is not aimed at waging war, but its actions don't conform to the promise. Such behavior can only deepen Japan's neighboring countries' doubts about whether it has sincerely reflected on the historical lessons of its aggression toward other nations.