Japan and Australia have taken a small but apparently momentous step towards becoming fully-fledged strategic allies. In late October, Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida signed in Perth a revised Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation. This new version, which replaces the original signed in 2007, contains a very significant additional sentence. It says the two countries “will consult each other on contingencies that may affect our sovereignty and regional security interests, and consider measures in response”.
That language might seem innocuous enough, but it is seen in Canberra to carry a lot of diplomatic and strategic weight. That is because similar formulations, containing similar commitments to “consult”, are a central element of many formal defence alliance treaties. The Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (Anzus) – Australia’s alliance with America – for example, commits the parties to “consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened…”