Japanese troops could be trained in counter-terrorism on
Australian soil under a ground-breaking defense pact due to be
signed between the two countries next month, Australia's government
In what would be Japan's first defense agreement outside
existing pacts with the Washington, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was
expected to sign a security deal with his Australian counterpart
John Howard in mid-March in Japan.
"It is a very valuable relationship and it has a lot of
characteristics, and whilst it's by no means certain that that's
going to happen... I don't think Australians would object," Howard
told journalists in Canberra.
Both Canberra and Washington have been pushing Japan to take a
more active role in international peacekeeping, with Abe determined
to reform Japan's pacifist post-World War II constitution.
Signing the pact after year-long talks would clear the way for
joint military exercises, official military exchanges and closer
cooperation on issues like the Korean Peninsula nuclear
Australia and Japan are members of the US-led Strategic Defence
Initiative, intercepting ships of North Korea to search for missile
delivery and nuclear weapons technology.
Australian troops in 2005 provided protection in Iraq for
Japanese soldiers barred from carrying arms, and have worked
alongside Japanese forces in Cambodia and East Timor.
Downer said the pact would not be a mutual defense treaty like
Australia had with Washington, and would not necessarily lead to
large-scale Japanese exercises in Australia, where troops from
Singapore and the United States already train.
"They would probably focus much more on things like disaster
relief rather than the more aggressive type military actions,"
Downer said, adding counter-terrorism would also feature.
Howard said a closer alliance with Japan would not upset
Australian war veterans nursing bitter memories of confrontation
with Japanese troops in Southeast Asia.
"We all remember World War II and I certainly am very conscious
of sensitivities of long ago about that," he said.
"But Japan has become a wonderful friend and ally of
Australia's. Australians rather like the idea of Australian and
Japanese forces working together."
(China Daily via agencies February 6, 2007)