A defence cooperation agreement will be top of the agenda today as Malcolm Turnbull begins his annual leader’s dialogue with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
The talks come as Australia’s relationship with China—Australia’s most important trade partner—has hit turbulence after Beijing laid an official complaint with Canberra over comments made by a member of Turnbull’s cabinet criticising China’s aid in the Pacific as building “white elephants” with “roads to nowhere”.
The defence agreement will likely allow the Australian air force to participate in joint exercises in Japan, easier logistics cooperation between the two militaries and for Japanese troops to conduct military exercises in Australia.
Furthermore, Canberra’s National Security College argues China’s hold on Australia’s economy is overblown. Exports account for only 20% of GDP and Beijing only accounts for 30% of all exports. Therefore, Australia has more leeway to adopt more anti-China positions.
Mr Turnbull appears to be calculating that—similar to the response to Australia’s South China Sea position—Beijing will not retaliate to any inked deal with Japan. Expect closer defence cooperation with Japan despite Beijing’s displeasure.
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John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.