Steph Deschamps / October 22, 2022
Australia and Japan signed a security pact on Saturday aimed at countering China’s rising military power.
Visiting Australia, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with his counterpart Anthony Albanese in the western city of Perth to revamp the 15-year-old agreement, drafted at a time when jihadist attacks and weapons proliferation were major concerns.
“This historic declaration sends a strong signal to the region about our strategic alignment,” Albanese said, welcoming the pact signed between the two countries.
While not directly naming China and North Korea, the Japanese Prime Minister called the agreement a response to an “increasingly harsh strategic environment.” This is the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to Australia since 2018. The two Pacific nations are expected to focus in particular on sharing geospatial signals and intelligence gleaned from electronic listening satellites, or SIGINT (SIGnal INTelligence).
Neither country currently has extensive foreign intelligence networks, such as the U.S. CIA or the French DGSE. Bryce Wakefield of the Australian Institute of International Affairs believes that both Tokyo and Canberra do, however, have sophisticated information-gathering capabilities through communications interception.
He said the agreement could also serve as a model for Japan to develop deeper security ties with countries like Britain. The pact is also seen as a further step toward Japan joining the powerful “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance between Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
But obstacles remain. In the past, closer cooperation has been hampered by long-standing concerns about Tokyo’s ability to handle sensitive confidential documents and transmit them securely. Prime Ministers Kishida and Albanese have also pledged to strengthen their military and energy cooperation. Japan is a major purchaser of Australian gas and has relied heavily on hydrogen energy produced in Australia. The security pact signed between Tokyo and Canberra in 2007, when Beijing was much weaker militarily and less assertive in its relations with the world, has also been strengthened. Since Xi Jinping came to power, Beijing’s military has become much stronger and its posture more aggressive. During Xi Jinping’s decade of rule, China has made its military one of the most powerful in the world and has amassed a nuclear and ballistic arsenal.