Japan invites Australia to join two military exercises for first time

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan said on Thursday it had invited Australia to join two regular command post military exercises conducted with the United States for the first time.

Japan’s Minister of Defence Minoru Kihara said he discussed Australia’s participation in the drills during talks in Tokyo with his counterpart from Canberra, Richard Marles.

The first exercise in November, Yama Sakura, will be with Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDF) and the U.S. Army. The second exercise, Keen Edge, is scheduled for February and will involve the SDF and the U.S. Marines

“We are expanding defence cooperation with Australia in all areas. Our goal is that in times of emergency we are able to work closely together,” Kihara told reporters after the meeting.

The two countries also agreed to cooperate in defence equipment joint development.

Marles welcomed Australia’s closer security ties with Japan, according to a transcript of his remarks released by the Canberra government.

“There is no country in the world with whom we have a greater strategic alignment than Japan. We’re both allies of the United States, we both have a complex relationship with our largest trading partner China, and we have a deep relationship with each other,” Marles said.

Japan and Australia are both concerned about China’s growing military power in the region and about a possible attack by Beijing to gain control of Taiwan.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Gareth Jones)