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Australia, Japan to pursue ‘more complex’ joint military drills

Australia and Japan will pursue opportunities for “more complex” joint military exercises, Canberra’s defence minister said Friday after talks with his Japanese counterpart and the countries’ foreign ministers in Tokyo. The meeting followed the signing in October of a security pact by Japan and Australia, agreeing to share intelligence and deepen defence cooperation to counter China’s military rise. And in Washington this week, the Australian and American defence and foreign ministers said they would welcome Japanese troops into three-way rotations. On Friday, Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles said the security pact and other agreements enable the two nations “to take the strategic alignment and the deep affection between our countries forward”. “We’ve spent today thinking of ways in which we can operationalise that,” he said in a four-way announcement. “There are a range of opportunities that exist which we will be pursuing where our two militaries can work closely together to do more high-end exercises and more complex exercises.” Marles said Australia was also “looking forward to ways in which, working with America, we can trilateralise that, and make that an effort where it is Australia, America and Japan working together across the three domains” of land, sea and air defence. The United States has been rotating marines since 2011 through the strategic city of Darwin in northern Australia. Japan’s Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada did not comment directly on the invitation to participate in trilateral operations in Australia. He only stated that “for our defence and security, the cooperation between Australia and Japan, together with that of our ally the United States and other like-minded countries, is of vital importance”. Japan, a treaty-bound ally of the United States, has in recent years sought growing diplomatic cooperation with Australia, but defence ties have been more sensitive due to the Japanese constitution, which limits Tokyo’s military capacity to ostensibly self-protective measures. But Japan is preparing to announce an overhaul of its security strategy, including plans to ramp up defence spending by more than 50 percent over five years.

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