Japan and Australia reached an agreement on a new military pact this week that will allow their militaries to train in each other’s territories. News of the deal was welcomed by a top US Navy commander in Asia, and it comes at a time when the three countries, along with India, are increasing cooperation to counter China.
“That kind of agreement is really helpful and encouraging to everybody in the region,” Vice Admiral William Merz, the commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which is based in Japan, said on Thursday. “We are very supportive of that agreement and we look forward to exercising along right with them.”
Once Japan’s parliament approves the agreement between Canberra and Tokyo, it will mark the first time in 60 years that Japan allows another foreign military besides the US on its soil. The deal is similar to one signed between the US and Japan in 1960, known as the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.
The US, Japan, Australia, and India are currently engaged in naval exercises off India’s coast known as the Malabar. The four countries make up the informal alliance known as the Quad. The Malabar drills started as a joint US-Indian exercise in 1992, with Japan joining on a permanent basis in 2015. Australia joined this year for the first time since 2007
In previous years, India has been hesitant about allowing Australia to participate in the exercises. But with tensions high between New Delhi and Beijing over a border dispute in the western Himalayans and Washington’s increasing hostility towards China, the Quad countries joined together for a show of force off India’s coast.