Japan, Australia agree to enhance defense ties amid North Korea tensions

April 20, 2017 2:03 pm

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne (L) meets with her Japanese counterpart Tomomi Inada ahead of a 2+2 meeting with foreign ministers of the two countries, at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, , April 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Japan and have agreed to enhance bilateral defense cooperation amid tensions with .
Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told her Australian counterpart Marise Payne in Tokyo late Wednesday that such military cooperation had become particularly crucial given the North Korean tensions.
The two sides reportedly agreed to expand joint exercises and arms-equipment trade.
The meeting came on the eve of “two-plus-two” security talks between the countries’ foreign and defense ministers scheduled for Thursday, when the ministers will discuss enhancing defense cooperation as well as North ’s missile and nuclear programs.

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop (2nd-L) and Defense Minister Marise Payne (R) arrive to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, April 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Tensions have spiked between North Korea and the US in recent weeks. The US has been unnerved by North Korea’s advancing missile and nuclear programs. Also a party to the tensions is Japan, which has its own concerns of an alleged North Korean threat.
China and the South China Sea are also expected to be discussed by Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop during the Thursday talks.
Japan has no claims in the South China Sea but has expressed worries about Beijing’s influence in the region, where five trillion dollars in trade passes every year, much of it to and from Japanese ports.
Tokyo is, however, involved in a separate territorial dispute with Beijing on an uninhabited yet strategically-important island group in the East China Sea.
A Japanese Foreign Ministry official told reporters on the customary condition of anonymity that the four ministers would likely also review US President Donald Trump’s policies in his first three months in office.
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