Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo on November 17.

It is a new defense pact for the Indo-Pacific, the vast region that encompasses the Indian Ocean, and goes from Australia to the North Pacific: Japan and Australia decided, Tuesday, November 17, to finalize a reciprocal access agreement (RAA) for their armed troops. The new framework, which will be formalized in 2021, should allow the soldiers of the two countries to organize maneuvers on their respective territories, to strengthen the interoperability of their forces and to station troops if necessary on the territory of the other. . It was announced in Tokyo by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

In a statement, the two leaders renewed, without ever citing China, their “Determination to deepen cooperation to promote a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region”. They expressed “Serious concerns” concerning militarization in the South and East China Seas, as well as “Serious concerns” concerning the situation in Hong Kong, while “Welcoming the continued engagement of the United States in the region”.

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Sign of the importance of the RAA, Mr. Morrison had made a special trip to the Archipelago, despite the obligation of two weeks of quarantine on his return to Canberra. “Australia and Japan, liberal democracies founded on the market economy, have a lot in common and have strategic interests which align”, assured the Australian conservative, who, in response to critics seeing in this agreement a means of countering Chinese inclinations, presents the RAA as a means of “Promote stability, which is a good thing”. ” There is no reason ” that the pact “Raises fears elsewhere in the region”.

“Tools at the service of Americans”

China immediately reacted: “Cooperation between countries should promote peace and stability, and strengthen mutual trust in the region. It should not target a third country or threaten the interests of that third country ”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Wednesday (Nov. 18). Daily Global Times, close to power, considers that Japan and Australia “Are used as tools in the service of Americans” to gang up on China.

The RAA, in negotiation for six years, is the first of its kind for Japan since that of 1960 on the American Statute of Forces (SOFA), which governs the presence in the Archipelago of nearly 50,000 American soldiers. One of the delicate aspects of the talks concerned the application of the death penalty, still in force in Japan, to the military of Australia, which does not apply it. The issue would have been resolved, said Morrison, without giving details.

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