Scott Morrison, Australia's prime minister speaks while Yoshihide Suga, Japan's prime minister, listens during a joint news conference at Suga's official residence in Tokyo, Japan Photograph:( Reuters )
The agreement between Canberra and Tokyo, Japan's first with another country since a similar agreement with Washington in 1960, comes as the two countries work more closely with the United States and India as part of an informal grouping known as the 'Quad' as they grow more concerned about Chinese activity in the South China Sea and the East China Sea
Members of Quad are stepping up the heat to counter China's belligerence and growing influence in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian leader Scott Morrison on Tuesday agreed in principle on a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) that will more closely align the US allies through a legal framework allowing each other's troops to visit for training and to conduct joint military operations.
Suga said the agreement ensures "Further reinforcement of bilateral corporation in the areas of security, defense cooperation, economy, and others are enshrined in this statement and indeed I wish to strengthen Japan-Australia collaboration even further."
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said ''We expect to increase our regional cooperation in many forms and the Malabar exercise have been conducted together with the United States and together with India and we would expect to further expand our cooperation in those areas. That's the whole point of streamlining the arrangements with a status of forces agreement of this nature."
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Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said "China is strongly dissatisfied and opposed to the unwarranted accusations against China in the statement issued following the leaders' meeting that grossly interfered in China's internal affairs.''
''The countries concerned should have a clear understanding of the situation and stop the wrongdoings that undermine China's sovereignty and interests and interfere in China's internal affairs," he added.
The agreement between Canberra and Tokyo, Japan's first with another country since a similar agreement with Washington in 1960, comes as the two countries work more closely with the United States and India as part of an informal grouping known as the "Quad" as they grow more concerned about Chinese activity in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
Suga hosted foreign ministers from the Quad in Tokyo last month before heading to Vietnam and Indonesia to deepen ties with key Southeast Asian nations.
In a call with Suga on Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden said his incoming administration was committed to maintaining that close partnership.
To counter China, Suga last month visited Vietnam and Indonesia to bolster ties with key Southeast Asian allies. That followed a meeting in Tokyo of foreign ministers from the "Quad" an informal group of Japan, Australia, the United States, and India.
China, which insists its intentions in the Asia-Pacific region are peaceful, described the Quad, as a "mini-NATO" aimed at containing it.
The Japan-Australia agreement also came under similar criticism in China on Tuesday, with the state-backed newspaper the Global Times saying the United States "is using its two anchors in the Asia-Pacific region to push forward the construction of an Asian version of NATO."