In January 2022, Japan and Australia entered into a ‘Reciprocal Access Agreement’ (JA-RAA) which is a defense and security pact that allows for reciprocal access between Australian Defense Forces and Defense Forces Japanese Self-Defense Force. This strategic partnership between Japan and Australia has been framed by their common underlying objective which is the security of their shared Indo-Pacific aligned strategic interests through an assertive foreign policy aimed at countering the military assertion of China identified by both as the uncertainty Japan and Australia faced in the Indo-Pacific.
Bilateral cooperation under the reciprocal access agreement includes technology cooperation; military parking and training; bilateral access to areas and facilities; and the exchange of information between Japan and Australia. The agreement legalizes allied support and extended military deployments under the extended network strategy to expand their military reach and influence as a counterweight to China in the Indo-Pacific.
This bilateral strategic partnership represents the enactment of the United States-led military order in the Indo-Pacific supported by allied forces that provides for modernized military positions in the Indo-Pacific. Achieving the goal, the agreement guarantees reciprocal access of the military to each other’s facilities and territories for the achievement of naval interoperability in the Indo-Pacific. Additionally, the agreement legalizes their interoperability in international waters with the rationale for bilateral security cooperation. Bilateral information exchange and facilitation under this agreement between the two U.S. allies is another major development that complements U.S. information exchange and surveillance network in the vicinity of China.
The United States has opted for a policy of strategic reinsurance to ensure the status quo of the US-led world order which is undergoing a review by China in the Indo-Pacific. Therefore, the JA-RAA presents an extension of the “United States Indo-Pacific Strategy”, the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Policy” and the United States “Freedom of Navigation” doctrine to counter the emerging world order in the Indo-Pacific with the help of allies and partnerships.
The agreement has strategic advantages for Australia and Japan. Mainly, it facilitates them individually by legalizing them as potential maritime powers in the region. As in the case of Australia; while it already has naval projections in the South China Sea as well as the Taiwan Strait, reciprocal access to Australian forces in Japan additionally affords it maritime extension in the East China Sea. For U.S. allies, including Japan and Australia, the Indo-Pacific maritime lanes of communication (SLOC) are crucial to global commerce. Similarly, these states are also claimants in the East Asian maritime disputes over the islands that require built-in deterrence such as checks and balances mechanisms against China. Australia’s “Strategic Defense Update 2020” means a regional expansion from the northeast Indian Ocean to southeast Asia, the southwest Pacific, Papua and the New Guinea as the ‘immediate region’ of Australia, asserting ‘freedom of navigation’ and ‘Free and open Indo-Pacific’ as the order of the region.
Australia is above all asserted in the construction of the American Indo-Pacific security architecture by knitting strategic interoperability networks such as the “naval nuclear propulsion information exchange agreement” and the purchase nuclear submarines with the AUKUS; the commissioning of HMAS Stalwart; then the JA-RAA.
In the case of Japan, the JA-RAA presents the first status of forces agreement since 1960. The security pact indicates a “normalization of security” in Japan’s foreign policy to build “a security bond” in the ‘Indo-Pacific, this time allying with equal partners. and medium power in the region. Important Japanese deployments in this Indo-Pacific security link are JS KAGA (DDH-184); JS MURASAME (DD-101); JS SHIRANU; and the Japan-Palau goodwill exercise; and the Japan-Vanuatu Goodwill Exercise.
The US-led security architecture is responsible for creating the security dilemma in the Indo-Pacific which can rightly be analyzed as the cause of militarization in the region, be it the case of Taiwan and China, North and South Korea, or Pakistan and India. . In particular, it was the growing security partnership between the United States and Japan in the Asia-Pacific region after World War II, with the occupation of the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands and the security of the energy monopolies, which was responded with China’s intense military buildup and, therefore, militarization. of the South and East China Seas.
China’s Asia-Pacific security policy affirms the ineligibility of the United States to intervene in China’s maritime and land issues aligned with the region, based on the reasoning that such issues are “business”. Interiors” of the Asia-Pacific States; and second, based on the status of the United States of being so far a non-signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China is also creating an ASEAN security community through the through bilateral and multilateral security and economic agreements. Similarly, China is also building a complex interdependence structure for the US-led alliance-partnership; for example, with Japan, China collaborates in cyberspace and in the fields of artificial intelligence.
The interpretation of the US strategic reinsurance policy is essentially the strengthening of allies and partners in East Asia. Understanding Politics during his congressional hearing on “Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”; Daniel Russel, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, responds that what the United States is trying to do is create an imminent response to China by restoring the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific through a modernized military presence, strengthened allies and partnerships.
Therefore, the United States Strategic Defense and Security Architecture under its Strategic Assurance Policy is executed through regional interoperability mechanisms in networked security architectures to create “integrated deterrence against China which is established as a shared threat to US interests. and its allies, and to the US-led world order in Asia-Pacific. The JA-RAA is a significant development in this regard.
*Komal Khan, Research Officer, Strategic Vision Institute (SVI)