Australia and Japan are expected to sign a defense and security agreement soon which may open the way for Japanese troops to train on Australian soil, one of Australia's leading newspapers reported Monday.
The co-operation pact, which is under negotiation, will bring a new dimension to Australia's relations with its biggest trading partner, providing for joint military exercises, regular meetings between foreign and defense ministers, exchanges of officials and closer work on regional challenges, The Australian newspaper reported.
It will be Japan's first bilateral security agreement, other than the U.S.-Japan alliance, which remains the linchpin of the Japanese defense arrangements.
The agreement will be the first step towards Japanese troops exercising and training in Australia for an expanded role in international peacekeeping efforts.
Australian and non-combatant Japanese troops have worked together in Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Iraq.
Both Canberra and Washington have been pushing the previously reluctant Japanese Government towards bilateral security relations with Australia, rather than limiting exchanges to their shared alliance with the United States, said the newspaper.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard will sign the agreement with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe when he visits Tokyo in mid-March.
The paper also said the agreement will be the culmination of a major foreign policy objective pursued by the prime minister and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer throughout their decade in government.