Japan’s Shinzo Abe to deliver symbolic speech in northern Australia as ties strengthen

Japan’s Shinzo Abe to deliver symbolic speech in northern Australia as ties strengthen

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold his inaugural meeting Australian counterpart Scott Morrison today in Darwin. The trip holds

shinzo abe darwin austarlia

Photo: Kyodo

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold his inaugural meeting Australian counterpart Scott Morrison today in Darwin. The trip holds historical significance—Darwin was bombed by Japan in WWII and Mr Abe’s visit is the first by a Japanese leader to the northern Australian city since.

Today’s meeting also heralds a strengthening of defence ties between the two countries. Tokyo is keen to finalise the signing of the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), which had stalled under ex-PM Malcolm Turnbull, who feared being drawn into any Sino-Japanese territorial spat.

The new PM in Canberra presents Tokyo with a chance to push the finalisation of the RAA, which is hoped to tie Australia into Japanese defence cooperation, especially in Southeast Asia, over the long-term.

Expect a signed-off RAA to allow both militaries free movement in and out of each other’s territories, the supplying of fuel and materiel between the two forces and larger, more frequent joint exercises. Setting an official date for signing the RAA would be a huge breakthrough for Tokyo’s diplomacy. More circumspect remarks from Morrison would signal that he is likely to maintain Turnbull’s caution, possibly jeopardising the future of the RAA.

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