US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the allies would seek Japanese participation in joint operations in Australia, where the US has been rotating Marines since 2011 through Darwin, the strategic northern city struck by imperial Japan in World War II.
Austin said the US and Australia agreed to increase rotations of bomber task forces, fighter jets and the US Army and Navy.
“We agreed to enhance trilateral defence cooperation and to invite Japan to integrate into our force posture initiatives in Australia,” Austin said.
Japan, a treaty-bound ally of the US, has in recent years sought growing diplomatic cooperation with Australia, but defence ties have been more sensitive due to Tokyo’s official pacificism since defeat in World War II.
But Japan has participated in exercises including three-way drills in May off Australia’s northeast coast that included infantry live fire and tank integration.
WARNING ON CHINA
The three countries have increasingly seen common cause due to the growing assertiveness of China under President Xi Jinping.
“China’s dangerous and coercive actions throughout the Indo-Pacific, including around Taiwan, toward the Pacific Island countries, and in the East and South China Seas, threaten regional peace and stability,” Austin said.
With an eye on China, Australia last year entered a three-way security pact with the US and Britain to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, angering France whose sale of conventional submarines was scrapped.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Australians that the US was committed to “delivering on that promise at the earliest possible time”.
The defence ties comes despite a relative easing of tensions between the US and China, with Blinken set early next year to pay the first visit by a top US diplomat to Beijing in more than four years.