Japan, Australia defense chiefs affirm closer cooperation

The defense chiefs of Japan and Australia have affirmed joint efforts to maintain international order based on rules, with China's growing maritime presence in mind.

Japanese Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo and his Australian counterpart, Richard Marles, met in Tokyo on Wednesday.

They agreed on the importance of defense ties between Japan and Australia, which are in a special strategic partnership with shared security challenges and interests in the Indo-Pacific.

The two countries signed in January a Reciprocal Access Agreement.

The pact sets the framework for the handling of weapons and ammunition and the response to unexpected incidents and accidents. It will apply when Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the Australian military hold joint drills and other activities in each other's country.

The defense chiefs agreed to further strengthen defense cooperation and conduct more advanced drills to improve the interoperability of the accord.

They also pledged efforts to contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Kishi told reporters after the meeting that Japan and Australia bear a huge responsibility for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. He added that Japan will work to strengthen relations with Australia.