The leaders of Japan and Australia are planning to release a new declaration on security cooperation when they meet next weekend, amid China's growing military power and maritime assertiveness, government sources said Sunday.
The declaration highlighting the importance of a "free and open Indo-Pacific" will likely be announced by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese, who are scheduled to hold talks on Saturday in Perth, according to the sources.
It would be a revamp of the document signed in 2007 by then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister John Howard that recognized "common strategic interests and security benefits embodied in their respective alliance relationships with the United States."
The two leaders also committed to boosting bilateral and trilateral cooperation. While the declaration touched on North Korea's nuclear and missile development, there was no implicit reference regarding China.
During their first meeting in May, Kishida and Albanese agreed to proceed coordination concerning a new joint declaration on security cooperation, given that China's clout in the region has significantly increased over the 15 years.
Besides its aggressive territorial claims in regional waters, China has exerted influence over Pacific island nations near Australia, and caused alarm through the signing of a security pact with the Solomon Islands earlier this year.
Japan considers Australia a semi-ally and both countries are part of the Quad, a four-way security framework that also includes India and the United States.
At the forthcoming Kishida-Albanese meeting, energy cooperation will also be a major agenda item. Japan depends on Australia for more than a third of its liquefied natural gas imports but global supply chains have been disrupted following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Kishida had planned to visit Australia in January, but the trip was canceled due to a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections in Japan at the time. It will be the first visit to Australia by a Japanese prime minister since 2018.
Albanese visited Japan in May for a Quad summit. Late last month, he also traveled to Tokyo to attend the state funeral for Abe, who was gunned down during an election campaign speech in July.