|Monday, Sept. 21, 2009
Defense pact with Australia eyed
Accord would cover logistic support but opposition expected from coalition member SDP
Japan is considering signing a defense supply agreement with Australia that would enable the two countries to share food, fuel and other material and services, government sources said Sunday.
Tokyo currently only has this type of pact, called an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, with the United States. A similar agreement with Canberra would help the Self-Defense Forces expand their scope of international cooperation but could face resistance from the Social Democratic Party, a member of the ruling coalition.
The SDP, a junior partner of the Democratic Party of Japan and a champion of the war-renouncing Constitution, has been critical of sending the SDF on overseas missions.
Under the supply agreement between Japan and the U.S., which took effect in 1996, the SDF and the U.S. military have been building a framework for sharing supplies and services necessary for joint drills, U.N. peacekeeping operations and international disaster relief activities.
Revisions in 1999 and 2004 have expanded the sphere of logistic cooperation to include security-threatening situations near Japan and armed attacks on Japan.
An agreement with Australia could allow the two countries to share transport of supplies as well as repair and other services for joint drills, U.N. peacekeeping operations and international humanitarian operations, according to the sources.
The SDF cooperated with the Australian military in 2005 for postwar reconstruction efforts in southern Iraq as well as rescue operations in the wake of the catastrophic 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia.
Japan and Australia held defense ministerial talks last December and signed a memorandum of understanding calling for enhanced cooperation between the SDF and the Australian military in international peace efforts and antiterrorism activities.
The two countries have also been stepping up mutual visits of top uniformed defense officials. The Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Australian Navy conducted a joint drill for the first time Thursday off the coast of Japan.