Just on that news from Japan:
Scott Morrison and his Japanese counterpart, Yoshihide Suga, will seek to make progress on an agreement to pave the way for greater defence force cooperation when the Australian prime minister arrives in Tokyo later today.
Morrison, who flew out of Australia late last night, is on his way to the Japanese capital for a visit that is also intended to send a signal about increasingly close ties between Australia and Japan.
Morrison is the first foreign leader to meet with Suga in Japan since Shinzo Abe quit the top job for health reasons in September – although Suga met with his Vietnamese and Indonesia counterparts during his own travel abroad last month.
One of the key items on the agenda for their meeting scheduled for this evening, Australia time, is a defence deal known as a reciprocal access agreement.
The RAA is expected to detail arrangements for how Japan’s self-defence forces can operate in and around Australia, and for the Australian defence force to do likewise in Japan, according to the defence analyst Michael Bosack.
Such an agreement – if finalised – would be “epoch-making” because it would be Japan’s first agreement regarding foreign military presence in its sovereign territory since the 1960 status of forces agreement with the US, Bosack wrote in commentary for the Japan Times.
One of the sticking points, according to previous media reports, has been Japan’s use of the death penalty, and whether ADF members would potentially be subject to it for serious criminal breaches committed while on Japanese soil. It is hoped the leaders will make progress on the RAA negotiations tonight.
The leaders are also expected to discuss broader strategic issues, such as the rise of China and the implications of Joe Biden’s incoming administration in the US. The program of events during the one-day visit will also showcase cooperation between Australia and Japan on hydrogen technology.
Given that Suga was the day-to-day face of the Abe administration – through his years of service as chief cabinet secretary – many observers expect continuity in Japan’s foreign relations.
But Suga has made an early mark by committing Japan to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The Abe administration had previously talked about achieving net zero emissions “as early as possible in the second half of this century”.
Morrison is due to return to Australia on Wednesday, having postponed a trip to Papua New Guinea due to political turmoil there.