As Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott faced a leadership crisis last week, the policy ground shifted underneath Japan’s defense and security policy-makers. The Feb. 9 announcement by Defense Minister Kevin Andrews that Australia’s procurement of submarines will be subject to a “competitive evaluation process” intensified those political reverberations in Tokyo.
While Australia is feasting on a domestic political spectacle, Japan is contemplating the ruination of a carefully calibrated yet contentious strategy in Japan’s defense and security policymaking circles. The joint development of Australia’s next generation of submarines has acquired both symbolic and substantive significance for Japan’s precedent-breaking cadre of security policymakers.
The events of the last two weeks could undermine Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s government’s objective to catapult Japanese defense thinking into a new postwar paradigm of limited autonomy and unqualified legitimacy for Japan as a global defense actor.
In both Australia and Japan, close security ties, which have been expanding and consolidating since the 2007 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, have become the personal crusades of both Prime Ministers Abbott and Abe. The security cooperation builds on the 2014 Economic Partnership Agreement and represents the future of the bilateral relationship as both leaders see it.
The submarine collaboration that has been mooted by the press, explored by bureaucracies, and flagged by ministers in both countries represents the good faith commitment by both leaders to this shared vision. (end of excerpt)
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