BEIJING (Dispatches) -- Australia and Japan will "pay a corresponding price” if their new defense pact threatens China’s security, Chinese state media has warned, as Scott Morrison insisted the deal should not cause any concerns to Beijing.
The state-run Global Times newspaper declared the new agreement "accelerates the confrontational atmosphere in the Asia-Pacific region” and was aimed against China.
Australian ministers issued fresh calls on Wednesday for dialogue with their Chinese counterparts to resolve a simmering diplomatic dispute, which has resulted in Beijing taking a series of trade actions against Australian export sectors throughout the course of the year.
The outreach comes after Morrison and his Japanese counterpart, Yoshihide Suga, announced in Tokyo on Tuesday evening that they had reached broad agreement on arrangements for troops to train on each other’s territory.
Morrison sought to head off potential reaction from China, saying the in-principle agreement showed "a significant evolution” of the relationship between Canberra and Tokyo "but there’s no reason for that to cause any concern elsewhere in the region”.
"If anything, I think it adds to the stability of the region, which is a good thing,” he said.
Morrison said both sides believed "that the economic success of China is a good thing for Australia and Japan”. He added that Australia and Japan did not see China as a strategic competitor – an outlook that differs from that of their key security ally, the United States.
The defense pact, expected to be finalized when Suga visits Australia next year, simply indicated "Australia and Japan, as liberal, market-based democracies, have a lot in common and we have strategic interests in common”.
The Global Times, however, argued the deal "provides a new lever for the U.S. to divide Asia” and that Japan and Australia "are recklessly taking the first step to conduct deep defense cooperation that targets a third party”.
The paper said Beijing was "unlikely to remain indifferent to U.S. moves aimed at inciting countries to gang up against China in the long run” and would inevitably take countermeasures of some form.
"We suggest Japan and Australia exercise restraint on the way to form a quasi military alliance against China,” the Global Times said.
"They should better not create confrontations with China under the instigation of the U.S., or follow the U.S. step to rope India in to contain China. They will surely pay a corresponding price if China’s national interests are infringed upon and its security is threatened.”
The reciprocal access agreement (RAA) is expected to pave the way for increased defense cooperation and joint exercises between Japan and Australia – including, potentially, in the South China Sea.