The Japan-Australia Security Alignment

Its Development and the Implications for Regional Integration of the Asia-Pacific

Daisuke Akimoto PhD, Assistant Professor, Soka University Peace Research Institute [About | Email]

Volume 13, Issue 4 (Article 21 in 2013). First published in ejcjs on 15 December 2013.

Suggested citation: Daisuke Akimoto, "The Japan-Australia Security Alignment: Its Development and the Implications for Regional Integration of the Asia-Pacific." electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies volume 13 issue 4 (15 December 2013). Available at


The Japan-Australia security alignment, particularly in the field of international peacekeeping operations, emerged in the post-Cold War period. As UN peacekeepers, Japan and Australia contributed to the post-conflict peace operations in Cambodia and East Timor. As US allies, both countries cooperated for post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq. The accumulated peacekeeping collaboration strengthened bilateral security ties and led to the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2007. This paper proposes the concept of the Japan-Australia security alignment and examines its development in terms of bilateral cooperation for post-conflict peace operations and the signing of the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation. It also attempts to explore the implications of the Japan-Australia security alignment for regional integration in the Asia-Pacific.

Keywords: Japan, Australia, security alignment, JDSC, PKO, regional integration, Asia-Pacific.


Historically, it is evident that the Japan-Australia relationship has developed based on a strong economic partnership and close security with the United States—these factors have been the foundations for amicable bilateral political ties. In the post-Cold War world, Japan-Australia security cooperation has emerged in spite of their military differences. The military capability of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) is constrained by Article 9 of the so-called Peace Constitution, which renounces the use of force and prohibits the exercise of the right of collective self-defence. Due to the strong influence of pacifism based on Article 9, Japan could not participate in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO) until the enactment of the International Peace Cooperation Law (PKO Law) in 1992. Despite the bilateral security treaty, Japan has never dispatched the SDF to US-led military operations. Unlike Japan, Australia’s security policy is not constitutionally limited. Although the size of the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) is approximately one-sixth of that of the SDF (Ball 2006: 165-166), the ADF is more adept in terms of military deployment and more experienced in the field of UN peacekeeping missions. The ADF, unlike the SDF, was involved in the military activities during the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq (Millar 1969; Takeda 2007: 184).

Notwithstanding these constitutional and organisational differences, both the SDF and the ADF have demonstrated security cooperation as UN peacekeepers and US allies. As UN peacekeepers, the SDF and the ADF contributed to post-conflict peacekeeping operations in Cambodia and East Timor. As key US allies, both countries supported the US-led War on Terror and contributed to post-war reconciliation for Afghanistan and Iraq. In this context, the recent rapid development of the Japan-Australia security partnership was showcased with the signing of the ‘Joint Declaration on the Security Cooperation’ (JDSC) on 13 March 2007 (MOFA 2007a).

As a result of the increase of bilateral security collaborations and arrangements especially in the post-9/11 period, quite a few researchers have analysed Japan-Australia relations in terms of security issues (Tow and Kersten 2012). For instance, David Walton (2004, 2008) explored the possibility and limitations for a new framework of the bilateral “security partnership.” From a realist perspective, Naoko Sajima (2006) analysed the potential for an effective “strategic partnership” based on the military alliance with the United States. Robert Ayson (2007) investigated bilateral “security cooperation” from bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral viewpoints. Notably, Thomas S. Wilkins (2012) discussed the Japan-Australia strategic partnership as well as Japan’s “alignment policy.” His main argument is that the bilateral strategic partnership is not a formal and traditional military ‘alliance’ but an “alignment.” Specifically, according to Wilkins’ taxonomy of alignment archetypes, alliance, coalition, security community, and strategic partnership can be categorised as some forms of alignment. He observed that strategic partnership as a repertoire of alignment archetypes can be applied to the case of Japan-Australia, US-India, Israel-Turkey, and NATO-EU (Ibid: 67). Indeed, Japan has employed an alignment policy in its relationship with Australia which was called a “political alignment” by Alan Rix (1999).

Building on earlier research, this paper puts forward the concept of a “security alignment” and argues that this term appropriately describes the nature of current Japan-Australia security relationship. Although Wilkins (2012) regarded “alliance” as one of the ‘alignment’ archetypes, this paper, for convenience in the analysis of this case study, categorises keywords related to the Japan-Australia security relationship, such as security cooperation, strategic partnership, and security community, as a “security alignment,” which is flexible and different from a formal ‘military alliance’ that entails legally binding obligations for mutual defence.

In addition, this paper argues that the Japan-Australia security alignment has been developed by bilateral economic/political alignments, just as has the integration process of the Asia Pacific region. This perspective is based on the so-called ‘spill-over’ theory (neo-functionalism in international relations theory), which argues that regional unification, facilitated by economic cooperation, will eventually cause political and security integration (Haas 1958; Ruggie, Katzenstein, Keohane, and Schmitter 2005).

To support my argument as raised above, this paper is divided into seven sections. First, it begins with an overview of historical background of Japan-Australia relations during the Cold War period. This section will reconfirm that the economic partnership and political alignment became foundations for the bilateral security alignment. In the next section, Japan-Australia peacekeeping collaborations will be examined as cases of the development of the security alignment. The third section will discuss the maturation of the security alignment in response to the US-led War on Terror. It highlights that bilateral security ties were strengthened especially in the post-war peace-building collaboration in Iraq. In the fourth section, this paper emphasises that the JDSC symbolises the development towards a bilateral security alignment. Still, this section provides a number of reasons why Japan and Australia would not develop a full military alliance, but have instead formed the “security alignment.” The fifth and sixth sections will illustrate how the bilateral economic partnership has contributed to the economic integration of the Asia Pacific, and then ‘spilled over’ into the political and security fields. Finally, the seventh section will explore the implications of the Japan-Australia security alignment for regional integration of the Asia Pacific, especially for the establishment of the Asia Pacific Community.

Historical Background of the Japan-Australia Security Alignment

The historical background of Japan-Australia relations in the post-war era indicates that the bilateral relationship had been developed not only by the economic partnership but also by political/security connections. In the post-war period, there existed a strong anti-Japanese sentiment and opposition to Japan’s remilitarisation in Australia. For instance, on 19 March 1947, Robert Menzies, then opposition leader, stated that “Japan must never again be permitted to develop the means of waging war” (Watt 1968: 121-122). Nevertheless, the outbreak of the 1950 Korean War modified Australia’s policy towards Japan. The Korean War made the United States and Australia realise the strategic importance of Japan as a bulwark against communism (Ibid: 121, 124). Australia originally opposed a post-war peace treaty which recognised Japan’s individual and collective self-defence rights, but finally agreed to Japan’s self-defence power on condition that the ANZUS Treaty (Australia, New Zealand and the United States Security Treaty) be signed in 1951 (Millar 1978: 269-270).

Likewise, despite the strong anti-Japanese sentiment in Australia in the 1950s, the Australian government, led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies, concluded the Commerce Agreement with Japan in July, 1957. For Australia, the Commerce Agreement with Japan had economic and strategic implications. First, Australia was faced with decreasing trade with the United Kingdom and other European countries. Moreover, as the 1956 Japanese Economic White Paper demonstrated, the Japanese economy had almost completely recovered from the war (Takeda 2000: 200-203). Second, it can be argued that the Japan-Australia Commerce Agreement was influenced and conditioned by the Cold War politics. Indeed, after communism replaced Japan as Australia’s major threat, the Ministers of External Affairs after Herbert Evatt did not maintain a hard-line policy on Japan (Renouf 1979: 56). In other words, Australia began recognising Japan not as a threat but as a member of the Western camp, as well as a promising trade partner. The Commerce Agreement was revised in 1963, and Australia withdrew its invocation of Article 35 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which had been a discriminatory policy against Japan. In 1965, a long-term contract for iron ore and coal was signed, and consequently, Japan became the No. 1 trade partner of Australia, surpassing the United Kingdom in 1966 (Mori 2007: 318).

As an ally of the United States, Australia’s security policy during the Cold War was heavily based on its anti-communist policy. As well as the 1951 ANZUS Treaty, Australia concluded the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) in 1955 and the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) in 1971. SEATO was an anti-communist military alliance to contain China and North Vietnam. Membership consisted of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, Thailand, Pakistan and the Philippines. FPDA is an ongoing defence agreement among the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore to protect Malaysia and Singapore (Takeda 2000: 204-206).

Owing to the aftermath of the 1973 oil shock, Japan had to invalidate long-term trade contracts with Australia regarding sugar, beef, coal, and iron ore. Subsequently, economic friction between the two countries arose (Toyama 2006). In order to restore the economic relationship, the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Australia and Japan, also known as the Nippon-Australia Relations Agreement (NARA Treaty), was concluded in 1976 (DFAT 2012a). The NARA Treaty had been negotiated by the Labour government led by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and signed off by the Liberal government led by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. The fact that the signing of the treaty was supported by the opposition party underlines the significance of the treaty for the then Australian government (Dee 2006). During the 1970s and the 1980s, Japan and Australia gradually expanded defence cooperation, and the NARA Treaty was a meaningful outcome, which “established a comprehensive basis of equality and fairness in economic and political relations” (Drysdale 2006).

Even though bilateral ties during the Cold War period had been basically a commercial/economic relationship, the Australian intelligence community and their Japanese counterpart organisations began formal intelligence cooperation in the mid-1970s, and the end of the 1980s witnessed the beginning of exchanges of defence officials. In order to reappraise the possibility of bilateral defence cooperation, General Peter Gration, the Chief of the Australian Defence Forces, was dispatched to Tokyo in 1989, and Yōzō Ishikawa visited Australia as the first Director General of the Defence Agency in 1990. As well as the economic partnership, both countries strengthened political/security ties and began to consider a potential security partnership (Dupont 2004: 47-48). These reciprocal defence exchanges can be seen as a significant change in the bilateral relationship based largely on mutual economic interests. Although the bilateral relationship in the Cold War era exhibited the possibility of a security alignment, the SDF did not conduct military cooperation with the ADF throughout this period on account of constitutional restrictions.

UN Peacekeeping Cooperation in Cambodia and East Timor

The end of the Cold War and the outbreak of the 1990 Gulf Crisis provided opportunities and stimuli for Japan and Australia to cooperate as UN peacekeepers. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Australian Prime Minister Robert Hawke requested that Japan dispatch its troops to the Persian Gulf (Dobson 2003: 85). However, the Japanese government failed to pass the 1990 UN Peace Cooperation Bill due to the influence of pacifism based on Article 9. Consequently, Japan’s security policy was criticised by the international community, especially the United States, as a “non-bloodshed policy” or as “chequebook diplomacy.” Responding to international criticism, the Japanese government enacted the PKO Law in 1992 to dispatch the SDF to the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) (Ishizuka 2005). In light of Japan-Australia relations, it should be noted that Australia’s commitments on the Cambodian peace process, facilitated by Foreign Minister Gareth Evans under Paul Keating’s premiership, paved the way for Japan’s participation in UNTAC (Fukushima 2010: 184).

Australia’s policy on UNPKO has a much longer history than its Japanese counterpart. Before sending forces to UNTAC, Australia had already accumulated experience as an international peacekeeper during the Cold War era (Ishizuka 2006: 151-153). The Australian government made considerable contributions towards the peace process and peacekeeping operation in Cambodia. In 1989, Australian Foreign and Trade Minister Gareth Evans announced a peace proposal for Cambodia, renowned as the Red Book, suggesting the neutrality of Cambodia governed by the United Nations Transitional Authority (DFAT 1990). Australia did not have a vested interest in Cambodia and became involved in the peace process as a non-threatening third party. Although there were some negative reactions from the ASEAN countries, Australia as a middle power and a third party played an effective role in the peace process (Matsui 1999).

Furthermore, vast opportunities emerged between the SDF and ADF due to the correspondence between Special Representative of Secretary-General Yasushi Akashi and Australian military component Major General John Sanderson. As UNTAC military commander, John Sanderson paid special attention to cooperating with the SDF in order to ensure the successful completion of Japan’s first participation in UNPKO (Hoare 2003: 17 cited in Ishizuka 2006: 155).

After the peacekeeping cooperation in UNTAC, both the Japanese and Australian prime ministers recognised the significance of a bilateral security partnership. The ‘Joint Declaration on the Australia-Japan Partnership’ was signed by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and Prime Minister Paul Keating on 26 May 1995. The declaration pledged that the partnership would strengthen its security cooperation in such areas as the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and UN peacekeeping operations. The declaration also expressed Australia’s support for Japan’s permanent membership on the UN Security Council (MOFA 1995). Moreover, at a dinner hosted by Prime Minister John Howard in 1997, Prime Minister Ryūtarō Hashimoto stated that he regarded the bilateral relationship as political as well as economic. His reference to ‘political’ referred to the ‘politico-military talks’ initiated in 1996 and the visit of the Japanese fleet to Australia (MOFA 1997a). Bilateral peacekeeping collaboration in UNTAC was, therefore, significant for the development of the Japan-Australia security partnership (MOFA 1997b).

Australia’s commitment to the peace operations in East Timor demonstrated the fundamental difference between the SDF and the ADF. Unlike the SDF, constrained by Article 9, Australia was involved in the peace-enforcement authorised by the United Nations. The International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) operation under Australian Major General Peter Cosgrove, authorised by Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, preconditioned the feasibility of the following peacekeeping and peace-building operations. The post-INTERFET peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), was based on Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, and the Japanese government hesitated to dispatch the SDF due to legal constraints.

The “Sydney Declaration for Australia-Japan Creative Partnership,” issued by Japanese Prime Minister Jun’ichirō Koizumi and Australian Prime Minister John Howard on 1 May 2001, can be considered as one of the facilitative factors for Japan’s participation in peace operations in East Timor. The declaration pledged that both countries would cooperate in the field of strategic and political fields including peacekeeping training (MOFA 2001). In this context, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer made an overture to his Japanese counterpart, Makiko Tanaka, that Australia was hoping for the dispatch of the SDF to peace operations in East Timor as well as for Tokyo’s financial contribution. After the revision of the PKO Law by the Koizumi government, approximately 690 SDF members of the engineering battalion were dispatched to UNTAET in March 2002 (Gorjao 2002: 768 cited in Ishizuka 2006: 156). The fact that both SDF and ADF contributed to peacekeeping operations in East Timor has a symbolic meaning for the bilateral security alignment.

Security Cooperation as US Allies in Post-9/11 Period

The 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and the following wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, brought about further changes to their bilateral security alignment. Whereas Prime Minister Koizumi expressed his support for the combat of international terrorism (Prime Minister’s Office 2001), Prime Minister Howard stated that Australia would fight against terrorism side by side with the United States by invoking Article 4 of the ANZUS Treaty to deal with the “common danger” (McPhedran 2001). The terrorist attacks in the United States led to the deaths of 90 Australians and it was the first time that the ANZUS Treaty was invoked (ibid).

Not only the Howard government but also the opposition Labour Party “wholeheartedly endorsed” the decision by the Bush administration to take military actions against international terrorism. As a member of the “coalition of the willing,” Australia made a military commitment to fight Al-Qaeda by mobilising “navy frigates, long-range maritime aircraft, tanker aircraft, FA-18 fighters, and 150 Special Air Service troops” to Afghanistan. Based on the military alliance with the United States, the Howard government dispatched 1,500 ADF personnel to Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’ (Jain and Bruni 2006: 99). Australia also sent the ADF to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for post-war peace operations in Afghanistan (ISAF 2012).

Japan, on the other hand, could not invoke the Japan-US Security Treaty because of Article 9. Instead, the Koizumi government swiftly enacted the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law on 29 October 2001 to support the United States in the form of dispatching the Aegis fleet to the Indian Ocean for oil replenishment (Shinoda 2007). Unlike Australia, Japan could not dispatch the SDF to the ISAF but made financial and non-military contributions to post-war peace operations in Afghanistan (MOFA 2012a).

The 2002 Joint Press Statement was announced by Prime Ministers Howard and Koizumi, confirming bilateral ties based on their nations’ shared values, such as democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. In the security field, both countries promised cooperation to combat international terrorism and reaffirmed their commitment to the peace-building process in Afghanistan. Australia expressed its support for Japan’s permanent membership in the UN Security Council. In addition, Prime Minister Howard welcomed Japan’s “valuable contribution” to the UNPKO in East Timor (MOFA 2002a).

Based on the arrangement for the creative partnership, defence dialogues took place in Canberra on 2 and 3 September 2002. Security cooperation, especially counter-terrorism, was strengthened after the bombing attacks in Bali where Australians were targeted on 12 October 2002 (MOFA 2002b). In response to the terrorism which led to the deaths of 202 people including 88 Australian citizens, Howard stated that Australia would consider launching a ‘pre-emptive strike’ on countries which harbour terrorists. Although he withdrew the statement later, it shows that Australia’s security policy is fundamentally different from that of Japan. In addition to the counter-terrorism activities, Japan and Australia have cooperated for the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction through the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) (Newman and Williams 2006).

Australia as a US ally can use force for collective military sanctions. Australia participated in the military actions on Iraq with the United States and the United Kingdom on 20 March 2003. The Howard government dispatched 2,000 ADF troops including 150 Special Air Service members to Iraq (Takeda 2007: 232). The US-led War on Terror exemplified the different military nature of the SDF and the ADF. Yet, both Japan and Australia made a military contribution to post-war peace operations in Iraq. To dispatch the SDF to Iraq, the Koizumi government enacted the Iraq Special Measures Law on 26 July 2003. On 29 September 2003, Shigeru Ishiba, the Director General of the Japan Defence Agency, and Robert Hill, the Australian Minister for Defence, signed a Memorandum, which further confirmed the common defence interests shared by both countries and ensured defence exchanges for peace and security in the Asia-Pacific (Dupont 2004: 48).

Post-war reconstruction in Iraq marked a significant divergence in the Japan-Australia security alignment. Notably, when the Dutch government decided to withdraw its troops which had protected the SDF in Iraq, Prime Minister Koizumi, in April 2005, requested that Prime Minister Howard dispatch additional ADF personnel to Iraq in order to protect the SDF. In response, Howard willingly promised to dispatch an additional 450 ADF troops to supplement the existing deployment of 450 soldiers (Howard 2010: 458). It was unusual for the Japanese government to request other countries to protect the SDF in post-conflict peace operations, especially considering that the Japanese government judged that Samawah was a “non-combat area.” John Howard himself noted: “I saw this decision as important in building a strategic dimension to our longstanding economic partnership with Japan” (Ibid). The decisions made by Koizumi and Howard and military cooperation in Samawah symbolise the maturity of the security alignment.

In this context, a ‘Strategic Dialogue’ between Japan and the United States, as well as a ‘Security Dialogue’ among Japan, Australia and the United States at the level of senior officials, were held on 23 and 24 October 2005 (MOFA 2005). In addition, a policy for ‘Building a Comprehensive Strategic Relationship’ was announced by Foreign Ministers Tarō Asō and Alexander Downer on 18 March 2006. Asō and Downer confirmed their mutual concerns with regards to regional and international security cooperation in the light of peace operations in East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq, as well as the Tsunami of 2004 and the threat of Avian Influenza (MOFA 2006a). On the same day, the ‘Trilateral Strategic Dialogue’ (TSD) was held by the Japanese and Australian prime ministers as well as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (MOFA 2006b). The TSD sent messages which intended to relieve China’s apprehensions and to urge North Korea’s cooperation. As Takashi Terada (Terada 2012: 15-17) observed, although the United States and Japan were concerned about the rise of Chinese military power, Australia intended to strengthen its economic ties with China while supporting the TSD. In this way, the TSD attempted to deal with sensitive political and security issues, while strengthening strategic ties among three nations.

Foreign Minister Downer visited Japan during the same year to discuss bilateral relations and international situations (MOFA 2006c). For Australia, it was thought to be good timing to negotiate a security agreement between the two nations as well as pursuing a free trade agreement. Downer stated that Australia desired a full-fledged security treaty which entails mutual defence obligation with Japan. Regarding the negotiation for the security agreement, Downer stated: “Australia-Japan relations are undergoing a complete transformation;” “We talked about a security agreement during my recent visit;” and that “This was by far the best trip I have had to Japan as Foreign Minister” (Kelly 2006). After the talks with Shinzō Abe, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Downer mentioned that he was “struck by how upbeat he [Abe] was about the relationship with Australia” (ibid). These statements show how actively Downer pursued diplomatic efforts to achieve the signing of a security treaty with Japan and also that Abe was supportive. Downer’s endeavours bore fruit as a joint declaration on security cooperation, described as a “historic deal” (Alford 2007).

Japan-Australia ‘Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation’

This section focuses on the Japan-Australia ‘Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation’ as a case of the bilateral “security alignment” but not a “military alliance.” In the context of bilateral peacekeeping and security cooperation for Cambodia, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq, Japan and Australia upgraded their security ties as the JDSC signed by Prime Ministers Shinzō Abe and John Howard on 13 March 2007 (MOFA 2007a). The fields of strategic and security cooperation arranged in the JDSC were based on the accumulated military cooperation between the SDF and the ADF. These new arrangements included ‘2 + 2’ annual meetings of foreign ministers and defence ministers of the two countries (Ibid). This was the first arrangement for Japan to hold the 2 + 2 talks other than with the United States. The first 2 + 2 meeting, held in Tokyo on 6 June 2007, confirmed that the security partnership had developed through peacekeeping cooperation in Cambodia, East Timor, Iraq and international disaster relief. The meeting resolved to enhance the joint training of the SDF and the ADF including desktop exercises for international disaster relief under the auspices of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) (MOFA 2007b). Simply put, the JDSC is not a security treaty or military alliance, which entails legally binding defence obligations in the event of armed attacks, but a security alignment based on security arrangements and cooperation.

As mentioned previously, Canberra was more enthusiastic about the upgrade of the security partnership into a treaty than was Tokyo. In his book Utsukushii kuni e (Towards a Beautiful Country), Shinzō Abe (2006: 159-161) argued that Japan needed to expand its security cooperation not only with the United States, but also with Australia and India, which share the same values, such as democracy, human rights, freedom, and rule of law. Nonetheless, the conclusion of a new security treaty other than with the United States was unrealistic in terms of necessity and Article 9. The Japan-US Security Treaty might have been thought to be sufficient to protect the sovereignty of Japan. The need for creating a bilateral military alliance is less strategically required in the Post-Cold War period.

Retrospectively, William Tow (1978) suggested the idea of a ‘JANZUS’ framework among Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the United States as security partners in 1978. The JANZUS arrangement was raised as a strategic supplement to NATO to measure against the Soviet maritime power in the Asia-Pacific region during the Cold War era. Nonetheless, the notion of signing a bilateral or multilateral security treaty with Japan was thought to be unnecessary by most Australian leaders during the 1980s (Meaney 1988: 85).

In the post-war world, it is highly unlikely that Japan and Australia will solidify a formal military alliance. David Walton (2004: 20) pointed out that the military alliance with the United States makes the upgrade of full security ties unnecessary. Paradoxically, the United States acts as an agent to the development of the Japan-Australia security alignment, but simultaneously, the military dependence on the United States is a barrier to the Japan-Australia security agreement. In addition, Walton (2008) argued that the Japanese Constitution, rising China, and the changes of Japanese and Australian prime ministers made the full-blown security agreement all but unattainable. For Japan, revision of Article 9 to exercise the right of collective self-defence has been considerably difficult due to blockages from opposition parties and anti-militarist public. This is because full military alliance necessitates the obligation of mutual defence. As discussed, the Japan-US Security Treaty is asymmetrical and it is not easy for Japan to sign another full security treaty with Australia.

As for the China factor, Chinese President Hu Jintao expressed his concern about the talks among Prime Minister Abe, Prime Minister Howard and President Bush at Sydney in September 2007 (Mainichi Shimbun 6 September 2007). China has been concerned about the TSD and condemned it as ‘mini NATO’ or ‘little NATO’ in the Asia-Pacific to contain China. Within the framework of the TSD, the Japan-Australia security partnership would be regarded as a ‘shadow alliance’ as described by Purnendra Jain and John Bruni (2006: 95-97). Although the TSD is a dialogue rather than a military arrangement on the surface, the dialogue excluding China is viewed as a strategic containment of China, and it would cause a security dilemma. Another factor that made the security treaty almost impossible is the changes in prime ministers. The political and diplomatic stances of both the Democratic Party Japan and the Australian Labor Party balance the US alliance with policy on China. Indeed, the Liberal government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott has not shown any intentions of upgrading the bilateral security ties into the security treaty. These multiple factors prevented the Japan-Australia security partnership from evolving into a full-blown military alliance.

As shown above, the JDSC is not a military alliance but a security alignment. It was developed from bilateral security cooperation for international peacekeeping operations. The reasons why the JDSC was not upgraded into a military alliance also indicate that bilateral security partnership function better in the field of international peacekeeping rather than mutual defence obligation. In short, the development of Japan-Australia security alignment and unattained bilateral military alliance can be shown as in Table 1.

Table 1: Distinction between Alliance and Alignment in Japan-Australia Relations.
Types Forms of Security Relationship
Military Alliance Formal military alliance that entails legally binding obligation for mutual defence (e.g. JANZUS, Japan-Australia Security Treaty)= unattainable so far
Security Alignment Strategic partnership (e.g. TSD) = in action
Security cooperation (e.g. peacekeeping operations, JDSC) = in action
Security community (e.g. Asia Pacific Community) = in progress

Note: Domestically, revision of the Japanese constitution (Article 9) is a key to the conclusion of a formal security treaty. Internationally, security threats, such as potential conflicts between Japan and China/ North Korea could be a facilitative factor to the formation of the military alliance.

As shown above, there exists a clear difference between military alliance and security alignment in Japan-Australia relations. Importantly, unlike military alliance, security alignment is compatible with the development of ‘security community’ in the Asia Pacific. In other words, the Japan-Australia security relationship is not a narrow bilateral military block, but contains multilateral implications as examined in the following sections.

Japan and Australia: Economic Integration into the Asia-Pacific

The Japan-Australia economic/political/security alignments have profound implications for regional integration of the Asia-Pacific. This is because the bilateral alignments indicate that the process of regional integration in the Asia-Pacific, like that of Europe, would lead to economic unification and cooperation which could eventually ‘spill-over’ to the field of political and security cooperation (Haas 1958).

As Teruhiko Fukushima (2009: 30) observed, “Australia’s foreign relations have steadily drifted towards the Asia-Pacific direction away from the Anglo-centric one in the past 60 years.” Not only Australia but also Japan has contributed to the development of the Asia-Pacific area by setting up several regional organisations. In other words, the history of the Japan-Australia relations is that of regional integration of the Asia-Pacific area (Terada 2006a: 16). In particular, since the signing of the 1976 Basic Treaty, both Japan and Australia have made efforts to form regional institutions in the Asia-Pacific, such as the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) in 1983, APEC in 1989 and ARF in 1994 (Terada 2006b).

In the establishment of APEC, Prime Minister Masayoshi Ōhira proposed the idea of Kan Taiheiyō Rentai Kōsō (Pacific Basin Cooperation Concept) in 1979. In 1980, Ōhira visited Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and reached an agreement in the Pacific Community Seminar chaired by John Crawford. The Canberra Conference was held in the same year and PECC was organised in 1983. The bilateral cooperation for building economic institution led to the set-up of APEC announced by Prime Minister Robert Hawke in Seoul in January 1989 (Takeda 2000: 256). The success of establishing the APEC forum can be considered to be a barometer of the efficacy of the Japan-Australia partnership for economic integration in the Asia-Pacific. The 1995 Joint Declaration on the Australia-Japan Partnership articulated that both countries would contribute to building “an enduring and steadfast partnership which is a strong positive force for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region” (Kersten 2000: 292).

In terms of regional economic integration, Japan and Australia not only cooperated for regional economic integration but also began negotiating for the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). The signing of the bilateral FTA seems as difficult as the signing of the bilateral alliance treaty. Needless to say, the FTA with Australia threatens to cause huge agricultural damage to Japan. Yet, as Aurelia George Mulgan observed, it is notable that the JDSC and FTA negotiations were addressed at the same time (Mulgan 2007). This was because the bilateral political and security alignments could be facilitative to the trade negotiations under way.

Spill-Over into Political and Security Integration of the Asia-Pacific

The integration process of the Asia-Pacific region can be also seen in the field of politics and security. One of the first initiatives for political and security integration in this area was the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA) in 1961. However, the member states were Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, which excluded Japan and Australia. In addition, it was organised by anti-communist countries and could not facilitate political integration in the region. ASEAN in 1967 was also composed of anti-communist member states, such as Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore (Suzuki 2004: 132-134). Even though ASEAN was organised by non-communist members, territorial conflicts between the Philippines and Malaysia and Malaysia and Indonesia existed. Malaysia and the Philippines even broke their diplomatic relations in 1968 despite their ASEAN membership, although these were restored one year later. In 1971, the ASEAN countries expressed their security policy as the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN). After the end of the Cold War, Vietnam became an ASEAN member and ASEAN explored regionalism in Southeast Asia, leading some scholars to describe this as “Pax ASEANA” (Kuroyanagi 2004).

The 1977 Fukuda Doctrine declared that Japan’s Southeast Asian policy would contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Southeast Asian countries (Sudō 2005). Meanwhile, Australia has been keen on the unification of the Asia-Pacific area not only in terms of economic cooperation but also in the field of politics and security. For Australia, peace and security in the Asia-Pacific have been the main focus of its defence and security policies. Hence, it was natural for Australia to take responsibility for the maintenance of security cooperation in the area. In this context, in July 1990, Foreign Minister Gareth Evans expressed a proposal to establish the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Asia (CSCA) as an analogy of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) (Evans 1993). Although his proposal to reduce the scale of US naval forces in the Pacific worried Japan and the United States, it contributed to facilitating consultation with his Japanese counterpart Nakayama and stimulated regional security dialogue in the Asia-Pacific region (Dalrymple 1996: 48).

Australia has played an important role in establishing the ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum 2005-2011). In comparison with the ASEAN, the ARF includes a more comprehensive range of countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia has been actively involved in the ARF as a founding member since 1994. In particular, Australia encourages the ARF to make strategic and security contributions in the areas of anti-terrorism and counter-proliferation, as well as nuclear weapon and missile issues, particularly concerning North Korea (DFAT 2012b). The ARF has three phases in its approaches to conflict resolution: 1) confidence building (through seminara, workshops, security dialogue, and defence exchange); 2) preventive diplomacy (ministerial meetings); and 3) conflict resolution (MOFA 2008). Although the ARF is a first-track security cooperation, the ARF member states have never dispatched their troops to peace operations under the auspices of the ARF, unlike NATO. In other words, the ARF is not necessarily functional in the actual field of international conflict resolutions.

The regional implication of the Japan-Australia security alignment is that the bilateral security partnership could function not only as so-called “hub and spokes” but also as “webs,” which “would promote a sense of security community across the region as a whole” (Blair and Hanley 2001 cited in Bisley 2008: 46). This means that bilateral security alignment is likely to function beyond the Northern and Southern Anchors under the US military alliance system. The hub-spokes system and multilateral cooperative security system are not necessarily contradictory but rather mutually supplemental in the light of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific. In short, the Japan-Australia economic partnership caused the political and security alignments which contribute to the integration of the Asia-Pacific region.

Towards the Establishment of an Asia-Pacific Community?

With regard to the regional integration in the Asia-Pacific, there are two innovative and ambitious proposals: the creation of the Asia-Pacific PKO Centre and the Asia-Pacific Community. On the basis of the bilateral security alignment, Japan and Australia can facilitate the establishment of a Joint Peacekeeping Training Centre for the Asia-Pacific region as suggested by Katsumi Ishizuka (2005: 83). The experience of the ADF and the vastness of the Australian continent are suitable for joint peacekeeping drills. Japan, in cooperation with other Asia-Pacific countries, will be able to bankroll the establishment of the PKO Centre. Australia has already established the “Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence,” renamed the Australian Civil-Military Centre, in Canberra in order to make a greater contribution to the field of international peace operations (Walton and Akimoto 2013: 141). Thus, the Asia-Pacific PKO Centre could be organised by governments and civilians in this area.

Significantly, the PKO Centre would be able to contribute to the decrease of military and political tensions between Japan and other antagonising countries, especially China, and both North and South Korea. Through this PKO Centre, Japan would be able to enhance its confidence building with other Asia-Pacific countries. The SDF has already worked together with Korean forces in peacekeeping operations, and China accepted the SDF in the aftermath of the 2008 earthquake. Furthermore, the Japanese government accepted rescue teams from China and South Korea after the 3/11 earthquake. These events suggest that China and South Korea might be more agreeable to the nature of the SDF as an international peacekeeper rather than an offensive power. As a part of the preventive diplomacy initiatives, the Asia-Pacific PKO Centre could be used to train defence officers and troops in the field of pre/post-conflict peace operations as well as disaster relief.

The security situation in the Asia-Pacific area is relatively stable, but some regional conflicts, such as the Spratly Islands, Takeshima Island, China-Taiwan, India-Pakistan, and Japan-North Korea still remain (Naya 2004: 168-171). If the countries of the Asia-Pacific region cooperated in the field of the peacekeeping operations through the PKO Centre, this would facilitate dialogues among military personnel and defence officials of the parties in conflict. The JDSC confirmed that both Japan and Australia are willing to take assertive leadership in the field of peacekeeping operations. The creation of the Asia-Pacific PKO Centre will be a meaningful step towards the institutionalisation of the Asia-Pacific.

As an important example of the regional integration, in 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd proposed the idea of establishing an “Asia-Pacific Community,” composed of “the United States, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, and the other states of the region” by 2020. The Asia-Pacific Community meant “a regional institution which is able to engage in the full spectrum of dialogue, cooperation and action on economic and political matters and future challenges related to security” (Rudd 2008). The fact that Kevin Rudd suggested a new vision for Asia-Pacific integration to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda points to the future orientation of the bilateral security partnership. In their talks, both Prime Ministers Fukuda and Rudd confirmed that both countries would make a commitment to contribute to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. In this sense, the Japan-Australia security alignment, including the JDSC, could also be interpreted as foundation towards the institutionalisation of the Asia-Pacific Community. Although the creation of this regional architecture sounds utopian, the idea of building the Asia-Pacific Community, supported by Australian Ministers and US President Barack Obama, is “still alive,” and slowly but surely, regional integration is showing progress (Kerin 2010). Moreover, from a Chinese perspective, the idea of the Asia-Pacific Community is not incongruent with China’s national interest, as long as it is “positive-sum integration” and a “peaceful development” (Makeham 2013: 35). From a long-term standpoint, therefore, it can be concluded that the Japan-Australia economic/political/security alignments have profound implications for the regional unification process in the Asia-Pacific as shown in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Japan-Australia Relations and the Integration of the Asia-Pacific.
Aspects Events related to Integration of the Asia-Pacific
Economic Alignment Japan-Australia Commerce Agreement (1957)
Japan-Australia Free Trade Agreement negotiated (2007)
Political/Security Alignment Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation (NARA Treaty) (1976)
Peacekeeping collaboration (Cambodia/East Timor) (1992/2002)
Bilateral Security Cooperation in Iraq (2005)
Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD) signed (2006)
Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation (JDSC) signed (2007)
Implications for Integration in the Asia Pacific Fukuda Doctrine (1977)
Pacific Basin Cooperation Concept proposed by PM. Ohira (1979)
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) proposed and facilitated by PM. Hawke (1989)
ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) supported (1994)
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Asia (CSCA) proposed by FM. Evans (1990)
Asia-Pacific Community (APC) proposed by PM. Rudd (2008)

Note: The regional integration in the Asia Pacific is in progress, so all these processes can be causal components for the creation of the APC in the future.

At this stage, it is premature to conclude or forecast that a formal regional architecture will be established in the Asia Pacific in the future. Nonetheless, as shown in Table 2, Japan and Australia have developed economic/political/security alignments which can be part of the integration process of the Asia Pacific. Accordingly, the evidence examined in this paper and summarised in Table 2 clearly indicates that the Asia Pacific has experienced the regional integration process which both Japan and Australia have continuously supported and facilitated.


This paper has examined the development of the Japan-Australia security alignment and its implications for the regional integration of the Asia-Pacific. The main argument of the paper is that the concept, security alignment, correctly describes the nature of this bilateral security relationship. To support this, the first section contextualised the historical background of Japan-Australia relations. This confirms that the bilateral ties were strengthened by the economic partnership in the post-war period. Still, it also reconfirms the fact that the bilateral relationship was enhanced not only by economic interests but also by political alignment through diplomatic exchanges during the Cold War era.

The second section identified the beginning of the bilateral peacekeeping cooperation as a developing period of the security alignment. Indeed, the UNTAC operation was the first example of security cooperation between the SDF and ADF. In particular, the SDF and the ADF worked together under the leadership of the Special Representative of Secretary-General Akashi Yasushi and Major General John Sanderson. In addition, peacekeeping collaboration in East Timor eventually contributed to strengthening the security partnership. Australian peacekeepers cooperated with the largest-scale Japanese peacekeepers in East Timor. The case of peace operations in the East Timor conflict demonstrated the organisational differences, as well as the complementary nature, of the SDF and the ADF.

The third section clarified the maturation level of the security alignment in relation to the US-led War on Terror and the following post-war security cooperation. The case study indicated that the bilateral security alignment is based on military alliance with the United States. It also highlighted that bilateral security ties were strengthened especially in the post-war peace-building collaboration in Iraq. Significantly, the complementary nature of both peacekeepers was identified in the decision to dispatch an additional 450 ADF personnel to Iraq to protect the SDF. This is a clear example of the Japan-Australia security alignment in action without a formal military alliance or security treaty.

The fourth section revealed that the JDSC symbolises the nature of the bilateral security alignment and provided multiple reasons why the JDSC has not been upgraded into a full security treaty. In spite of the shared experience in the post-conflict and post-war security cooperation, Canberra’s offer to sign a full defence agreement was rejected by Tokyo and a much softer and non-threatening type of arrangement (the JDSC) was made. Japan’s constitutional limitations, changes of leaderships, and the rising China factor made the signing of a full-fledged treaty unattainable. The characteristics of the JDSC strongly support my argument that the bilateral security relationship is not a military alliance but a security alignment.

In the fifth, sixth and seventh sections, this paper investigated my hypothesis that the Japan-Australia security alignment contributes to regional integration of the Asia-Pacific. It has been substantiated that the bilateral economic/political/security alignments can be part of the formation of the regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific area. As shown in these sections, the economic unification in this area spilt over to the political and security fields. The 1957 Japan-Australia commerce agreement became a foundation for the development of the bilateral economic partnership during the Cold War, which became a basis for political and security partnership in the post-Cold War period. In particular, the signing of the JDSC as a case of the Japan-Australia security alignment can be seen as a part of the integration process in the Asia-Pacific. As examined, the establishment of the Asia-Pacific PKO Centre might become a driving factor since it could remedy the residual legacies of the Pacific War and the Cold War in ways which would facilitate international peacekeeping collaboration and the regional unification. All these policy alignments have accumulated to the point where the former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, suggested the idea of the Asia Pacific Community to be established by 2020. Again, it is difficult to crystal-ball gaze the future scenario of the regional architecture in the Asia Pacific. Nevertheless, the evidence in this study has demonstrated that Japan-Australia economic/political/security alignments have coincided with the integration progress of this region.

Finally, the Great East Japan Earthquake has affected Japan-Australia relations. Without doubt, Australia’s ‘Operation Pacific Assist’ as humanitarian assistance strengthened the bilateral security alignment (Australian Government Department of Defence: 2012). In this context, both Japan and Australia need to enhance non-traditional security policies, such as the “human security agenda” (Walton and Akimoto 2013). The Japan-Australia security alignment, therefore, will be increasingly vital for the bilateral relationship and regional stability and integration of the Asia-Pacific in the post-3/11 world.


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About the Author

Daisuke Akimoto is Assistant Professor at the Soka University Peace Research Institute in Japan. He holds a PhD (Asian Studies and International Relations) from the University of Western Sydney, an MA (Peace and Conflict Studies) from the University of Sydney, and a BA (Humanities) from the Soka University Japan. His research interests include Japan’s pacifism and security policy, Japan-Australia relations, international peacekeeping operations, and nuclear disarmament.

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