UPDATE 1-U.S. Asia Navy Commander hails Japan-Australia military pact as encouraging

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By Tim Kelly

TOKYO, Nov. 19 (Reuters) – A senior US Navy commander in Asia on Thursday hailed an agreement between Japan and Australia to deepen military cooperation that will strengthen the United States in a region where Chinese influence expands.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian Leader Scott Morrison on Tuesday agreed in principle to a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) that will more closely align U.S. allies through a legal framework allowing troops to surrender to each other for train and conduct joint military operations. type of agreement is really helpful and encouraging for everyone in the region. We fully support this agreement and look forward to working with them, “Vice Admiral William Merz, commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, headquartered in Japan, told a panel discussion.

The Canberra-Tokyo deal, Japan’s first with another country since a similar deal with Washington in 1960, comes as the two countries work more closely with the United States and India as part of a consortium informal known as “Quad” as they grow more concerned about Chinese activity in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

Suga hosted the Quad’s foreign ministers in Tokyo last month before heading to Vietnam and Indonesia to deepen ties with key Southeast Asian countries.

Merz, who spoke with Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, the commanding general of the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, said greater cooperation in the region was not aimed at China.

“There is no attempt to contain China or anyone else, we are trying to create an environment of inclusion,” he said.

Beijing, which says its intentions in the region are peaceful, called the Quad “mini-NATO.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created to provide collective security against the then Soviet Union and is still viewed as a threat by Russia as it expands to include some European states who were previously part of the Eastern bloc.

The Japan-Australia deal also came under similar criticism in China on Tuesday, with state-backed newspaper the Global Times saying the United States “is using its two anchors in the Asia-Pacific region to do advance the construction of an Asian version of NATO. “

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