Within sniffing distance, as the 69-year-old Xi Jinping secured a consequential third term as China’s leader on Sunday, diplomatic eyes and thoughts quickly turned to Perth, Australia.
There, by co-occurrence, Japan and Australia agreed to share sensitive intelligence and deepen their defense cooperation by signing a landmark security agreement in what observers see as an unmistakable move to counter China’s military blastoff.
After talks in Perth, Japan’s 65-year-old Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Australian counterpart 59-year-old Anthony Albanese signed a joint declaration in which Tokyo and Canberra agreed to deepen trilateral security relations with the United States and to take action against countries violating international rules and norms.
“This landmark declaration sends a strong signal to the region of our strategic alignment,” Albanese said, hailing the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation.
Kishida himself said the declaration will become a “compass” to guide security and defense cooperation between Japan and Australia “over the next decade.”
Their accord came with rising concern that China might accelerate military provocations against Taiwan, with Xi’s unmatched third term as leader at the ruling Communist Party’s week-long, twice-a-decade congress that ended Saturday.
The Japan-Australia agreement sends a strong signal in East Asia and neighboring regions of the strategic alignment of the two allies which are aware of what they call “increasingly harsh strategic environment” without naming naming China or North Korea.
Neither Australia nor Japan has the needed ranks of overseas intelligence agents and foreign informants to play in the major leagues of global espionage.
Tokyo does not have a foreign spy agency equivalent to the US Central Intelligence Agency, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service known as the M16, and Russia’s Federal Security Service.
Canberra has the Australian Security Service Intelligence Organization but this is just a chunk of the size of the above-named security organizations.
In the latest declaration, Kishida, who began a three-day visit to Australia on Friday, and Albanese confirmed the significance of a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” a vision advocated by the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In 2007, Abe and Australian Prime Minister John Howard signed a document that recognized “common strategic interests and security benefits embodied in their respective alliance relationships with the United States.”
This month Kishida and Albanese did not single out China in the declaration as they may be eager to monitor how Beijing’s diplomatic policy may shift following Xi’s re-election.
But in a separate statement, Kishida and Albanese reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, while expressing caution about China’s bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.
We hope the ripples of development will not become ruthless tidal bores.