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Carr and White 14—*a research fellow in strategic & defence studies, at the Australian National University AND **a strategic analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (*Andrew AND **Harry, “Japanese security, Australian risk? The consequences of our new 'special relationship',” The Guardian, 7/8,

With Abe's speech, Australia and Japan have moved a long way towards creating a de facto alliance. Japan is pledging to sell advanced defence technology to Australia — ideally as the engine for our future submarines — while opening up its carefully guarded markets. In return, Australia is offering something that can't be said publicly: Australian support for Japan's regional power struggle with Beijing. While China builds its economy and military strength at home, Japan under Abe has gone abroad, to seek regional partnerships and pledges of support. This move would have been unthinkable a decade or more ago, given lingering fears that Japan had not sufficiently renounced its second world war imperialism. Yet at the recent Shangri-La dialogue and Asia-Pacific roundtable, held across Southeast Asia, Japanese leaders were welcomed with open arms. It's not that Asia has entirely forgiven Japan — especially with revisionist leaders like Abe at the helm. Rather it is China's aggressiveness over the last few years, combined with the failure of the Obama administration to implement the "pivot", which has caused a search for new partners and new ways of seeking security. While Obama used his own speech to the Australian parliament in 2011 to declare America was "all in" when it came to the Asia-Pacific, the reality has been anything but. Obama's team have been unable to put this claim in practice, while allowing themselves to be distracted by the crises of the day; from the Ukraine and Iraq to the West Bank. With the US president not even bothering to mention the pivot in recent major foreign policy speeches, it is no wonder US allies and partners in Asia are seeking their own bonds of protection. Of course, Australia and Japan can't explicitly say that deterring China is their purpose, hence today's focus on issues like trade and cooperation on natural disasters. Abbott is particularly reticent to admit this purpose, because he knows there is no guarantee the Australian public will support it. Despite five years of much more confrontational behaviour by China in the South and East China Seas, a recent Lowy Institute poll showed that Australians don't see China and Japan in vastly different lights. There is no clear evidence Australians would happily sacrifice not only their lucrative trade with China, but also some of their sons and daughters, to protect Japanese claims to oil and gas reserves in the East China Sea. Hopefully such a conflict will never happen. Given the US's pivot has failed to deter China, it is for the good of the Asia Pacific that new inter-regional approaches like this are sought. Today's cooperation between Australia and Japan is just one of a web of agreements and handshakes occurring across Asia. China won't like it, but isn't likely to retaliate in the short term. After-all, why cripple their own preparations, built on Australian steel and iron ore? To the casual observer little has changed. The US is still a vital partner in Asia, and China is still an economic opportunity far more than a military threat. But just in case either of those situations changes we're likely to see more days of regional web building as we did today. Let's just hope the people of Australia and the wider Asia Pacific are watching closely and know what they're being signed up for. Shinzo Abe heralded the beginning of a new "special relationship" between Japan and Australia in his address to parliament. Now, our partnership is about security as well as economics. Despite not mentioning China, that’s what the security part of this partnership is about – for Japan at least. That means more risk than benefit for Australia. Things look bleak from Tokyo because of the risks posed by China’s rise, which is why Abe’s government is reinventing Japan’s approach to defence and security. Beijing is growing stronger, and more aggressively pursuing her territorial claims, including a dispute with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Chinese relationships with Japan and America are becoming more deeply adversarial. It’s against that backdrop that Japan wants Australia as a security partner. Our economic relationship with Japan has been tremendously important to Australia, and we see the world in the same terms. But partnerships between countries are driven by the pursuit of their interests, not only their values – otherwise we’d be as close with Denmark as we are with America. Australia and Japan both want a peaceful and secure Asia that looks like the one we’ve enjoyed for the last several decades. The risk we seek to insure against is the disruption of that order caused by China’s growing power. The new "special relationship" will be good for Australia where it lessens the risks of conflict with Beijing, and will be bad where it increases the chances of us being involved in a war we may have otherwise avoided. Can our security partnership mitigate these risks? Despite talk of international law and norms, it’s hard to see how a security partnership makes us more or less law-abiding. The next idea is that we could deter potential Chinese aggression by lending extra military weight. But it’s fanciful to think that the token forces we could send would have any deterrent effect on a country that has the combined might of America and Japan spooked. What makes the partnership appealing for Japan is the prospect that in a conflict, Australian support or involvement alongside Japan would make it harder for Washington to say no. It would be harder to abandon two allies than one, and the more robust America’s commitment, the more likely Beijing is to be deterred. Maybe that’s right, although it seems optimistic to think that America would be prepared to abandon Japan, and so its whole position in Asia, but Australia’s involvement would tip the scales. Set against whatever benefit a security partnership confers on the prospects for peace in Asia, are the increased risks that Australia would find itself in a war with Japan against China. Helping Japan in the event that it found itself in a conflict is the heart of any meaningful security agreement after all. That’s a serious prospect – otherwise Japan wouldn’t need new security partners. From Canberra, any increased risk at all of war with China seems like too high a price to pay for a marginal benefit in deterring Beijing. Of course Australia is at no direct risk compared to Japan, so Tokyo takes on no liability in exchange for its marginal benefit. We can hardly blame them for asking, let’s hope we don’t come to rue saying yes.

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