Once They Were Sworn Enemies…But That Was Then (December, 1941)

  • Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says Japan and Australia have reached a broad agreement on their defense pact to aid more joint operations on each other’s soil.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Morrison is in Japan for talks with Suga to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool)

This further strengthen the defense ties between the two U.S. allies at a time when China is asserting its role in the region and the United States is going through a leadership transition.

The pact, called the Reciprocal Access Agreement, is a legal framework to allow their troops to visit each other’s countries and conduct training and joint operations.

Suga made the comments during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is visiting Tokyo.

Security and defense cooperation

“In the Indo-Pacific region, security and defense cooperation between Japan and Australia, which have the will and capacity to contribute to regional peace and stability, is becoming increasingly important,” Suga said.

“We reached agreement in principle on a reciprocal access agreement, which had been negotiated to elevate security and defense cooperation between Japan and Australia to a new level.”

It will be Japan’s first agreement covering foreign military presence in its territory since it signed a status of forces agreement in 1960 that allowed the United States to base warships, fighter jets and thousands of troops in and around Japan as part of a military alliance that Washington describes as the bedrock of regional security.

“Our special strategic partnership became even stronger, in particular because today we have taken a significant step forward in Japan and Australia reaching in principle agreement on landmark defense treaty, the Reciprocal Access Agreement,” Morrison says.

The countries have been negotiating the defense deal for six years, and this agreement still needs to be ratified by lawmakers.

To us and Australia, the war with Japan seems like ancient history. To the Chinese it was yesterday and by 1941 the Japanese had killed or caused the death of millions of their people. A notable example is the sacking of Nanjing which many Japanese still deny, though of course we do not denounce them as we would those who doubt the holocaust. It’s not hard to see the Chinese point of view here.

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