Australia and the United States have agreed to enhance military cooperation with Japan to try to counter China’s influence in the Pacific.
Australia and the United States want to integrate Japan into their combined military activities to push back on China’s ambitions in the Pacific.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Tuesday with Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong in Washington for Australia-US Ministerial — or AUSMIN — talks.
Austin said the United States would increase the presence of its air, land, and sea forces in Australia, including bombers and fighter jets.
He accused China of “dangerous and coercive actions throughout the Indo-Pacific” region.
Marles told reporters Tuesday in Washington that the plan also includes an invitation for Japan to participate in more joint defense exercises.
“It is really important that we are doing this from the point of view of providing balance within our region and involving other countries within our region and we look forward to being able to have more engagement with Japan in terms of that force posture cooperation,” said Marles.
Marles and Wong will head to Tokyo for talks with Japan’s leaders.
Tom Corbin is a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
He told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Wednesday that Australia could invite Japan to take part in more joint military exercises.
“This could look like greater Japanese participation in a wider range of exercises that Australia and the U.S. hold in Australia, but it could also mean more regular rotations of Japanese troops on longer term postings,” said Corbin.
Australia’s relations with China, its biggest trading partner, have been strained in recent years over various political and trade disputes.
But Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been eager to see relations improve since coming to power in May.
He met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in October. But the Australian government is also keen to enhance its traditional military alliance with the United States, which dates back to the 1950s.
Albanese is preparing to unveil a sweeping review of Australia’s defense forces early next year.