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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

PM hopeful of historic defence deal with Japan

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Scott Morrison hopes to sign a historic defence deal with Japan when he becomes the world’s first leader to meet with the country’s new PM.

A historic troop deal and energy will top the agenda when Scott Morrison meets his Japanese counterpart.

The Prime Minister will become the first leader to be welcomed to Japan by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, when he lands in Tokyo on Tuesday.

The Australia-Japan defence relationship in the Indo-Pacific will be central to discussions.

Australia is hopeful of completing a reciprocal access agreement, outlining rules for hosting troops from each country.

The agreement would provide a framework for co-operation, including the use of the other country’s bases and conduct during training operations.

The two leaders are expected to confirm their support for the deal.

Negotiations began in 2014, but stalled over fears Australian defence personnel could face the death penalty for offences committed while in Japan.

It would be the first agreement allowing foreign military presence signed by Japan since 1960.

Hydrogen exports will be also be discussed. Japan has committed to net zero emissions by 2050 under Mr Suga, while the Morrison government has made hydrogen central to its energy plans.

A travel bubble between the countries is likely to be raised but remains a distant prospect given high infection rates in Japan.

The leaders will hold a brief one-on-one sit-down, before a bilateral meeting between the pair and delegates from each country.

Mr Suga will then host a dinner attended by Mr Morrison and five delegates from each country.

New Prime Minister Mr Suga is well-known to the Japanese public.

He was cabinet secretary and right-hand man to former leader Shinzo Abe, and is widely expected to continue his predecessor’s agenda on the world stage.

The visit will be Mr Morrison’s first official overseas trip this year. He will be required to quarantine for 14 days on return, and will attend Question Time via videolink from the Lodge.

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