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TOKYO: Japan and Australia on Thursday signed a “landmark” treaty to strengthen defence ties, saying the accord would contribute to regional stability, as China expands its military and economic clout.

While Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention Beijing directly in a statement released ahead of the signing, the agreement is seen as another step by the regional allies to signal their concern over China’s military expansion.

Ahead of Thursday’s online summit with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, Morrison called the agreement “a statement of two nations’ commitment to work together in meeting the shared strategic security challenges we face and to contribute to a secure and stable Indo-Pacific”.

“This landmark treaty will... for the first time provide a clear framework for enhanced inter-operability and cooperation between our two forces,” Morrison said.

The partnership reflects “our shared values, our commitment to democracy and human rights, and our common interests in a free, open and resilient Indo-Pacific”, he added.

Japan and Australia, along with the United States and India, are part of the “Quad” grouping that has worked to build an alliance in the face of China’s swelling presence across Asia, including its threats to vital international sea lanes.

Ali Wyne, senior analyst at Eurasia Group, said the treaty could enhance Tokyo and Canberra’s ability to carry out joint military exercises in Japan with the United States.

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