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Australia and Japan: clutching at imperialist straws

Written by: (Contributed) on 2 October 2020


High-level diplomatic talks between Australia and Japan show how dependent the United States has become on the two regional hubs for 'US interests'.

The term 'US interests' includes widespread military and security considerations which rest upon numerous trade agreements.

As waves of US-led militarism sweep the Indo-Pacific, it has also been important to note recent developments in northern Australia where planning is underway with rapid deployment facilities for US-led troops into the wider region.

Within days of a new Prime Minister taking office in Japan, Australian PM Scott Morrison announced he would be the first leader to meet his counterpart in Tokyo, Yoshihide Suga, next month. The announcement followed a tele-conference with Foreign Minister Marise Payne meeting her Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi. The high-level diplomacy was not planned on the basis of polite formalities; the two countries are strategically-placed regional hubs for 'US interests', with triangular links with Washington.

Behind the media releases stating that the high-level diplomacy was conducted on the basis that 'Japan remains Australia's most substantial strategic partner in Asia', and based on 'the deep strategic alignment of the two countries', lies a deep sense of urgency. (1)

With traditional US hegemonic positions in decline, it has been officially noted in diplomatic circles that 'as Washington becomes less influential in the Asia-Pacific, Tokyo and Canberra have to reaffirm its importance in the region and jointly prevent their alliance with the super-power from becoming an empty shell'. (2)

The sense of urgency under-lying the high-level diplomacy can be seen in the context of both the Australian and Japanese economies being in long-term decline, with GDP growth rates in the former being in continual decline for into four decades, and the latter having been replaced by China as the second biggest economy in the world after decades of sluggish growth.

Even mutual trade between the two US allies has been dwarfed by China: Australia's two-way trade with Japan is estimated to total around $90 billion, in comparison to about $200 billion in trade-ties with China. (3) Elsewhere, the US has watched in dismay at the ability of China to extend its regional diplomatic influence with conditional loans provided within the Belt and Road initiatives. (4)

It is, therefore, important to note other features of the Australia – Japan diplomacy.

Both countries are regarded as key players in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) body, a forum for extending trade into neighbouring countries and allies. It functions like spokes around the regional hubs, to extend diplomatic influence, which, in turn, rests upon military agreements and alliances which include the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD).

The QSD is primarily an alliance including India with the three main partners; China fears the 'Quad' will eventually become an Asian form of NATO, and that Australia is little other than a regional proxy for the US. (5) Studies of the 'Quad' conducted by the Australian National University in Canberra, likewise, have concluded it is intended as 'a way for America's partners to present a united front'. (6)

The recent publication of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update also used similar terminology whereby references to US-led coalitions was used in the context of ADF personnel being deployed across the wider Indo-Pacific including North Asia. (7)

A recent media release from a leaked document followed by official denial, can, therefore, be best viewed in that light: a couple of paragraphs in a news supplement about Ports Australia revealed in July, the Northern Territory government had begun 'secret planning' for a new port facility outside Darwin to 'help US marines operate more readily in the Indo-Pacific'. (8)

The new port was apparently being planned following US concerns about China financing a 99-year lease over the Port of Darwin in 2015. Despite then Defence Department Secretary Dennis Richardson informing a Senate hearing the deal had been scrutinised by security and intelligence agencies and they had concluded 'the department did not have any security concerns about the sale of the port to Chinese interests, because the commercial port is separate from the Darwin naval base', the Trump administration in the US appear to have over-ridden the Australian government, various departments and the intelligence services. (9)

While the statement about the new port was quickly denied through bureaucratic officialdom, the subsequent diplomatic silence surrounding the whole matter has revealed there is no doubt the US seek greater compliance from both Australia and Japan to serve regional 'US interests'.

We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Morrison to meet Japan's new PM., Australian, 22 September 2020; and, Is Australia ready for regional conflict? Australian, 21 September 2020.
2.     Morrison – Suga call catches Beijing's ire, Australian, 25 September 2020; and, 
        Study: US no longer dominant power in the Pacific, Paul D. Shinkman, Information Clearing House, 22 August 2019.
3.     Japan trade is flourishing, Australian, 24 September 2020.
4.     US seals defence pact with Maldives, Australian, 30 September 2020.
5.     Morrison digging a grave for Australia, The Asia Times, 22 September 2020.
6.     Australian, op.cit., 22 September 2020.
7.     Australian, op. cit., 21 September 2020.
8.     No plans for new Darwin port: report, Ports Australia, Australian 18 September 2020.
9.     Ibid.


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