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U.S. Navy commander in Asia welcomes Japan-Australia military pact as encouraging

TOKYO, Nov 19 (Reuters) - A senior U.S. Navy commander in Asia on Thursday welcomed an agreement by Japan and Australia to tighten military cooperation that will bolster the United States and its allies in a region where China’s influence is growing.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, on Tuesday agreed in principle on a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) more closely aligning the U.S. allies through a legal framework that will allow each other’s troops to visit for training and to conduct joint military operations.

“That kind of agreement is really helpful and encouraging to everybody in the region. We are very supportive of that agreement and we look forward to exercising along right with them,” Vice Admiral William Merz, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which is headquartered in Japan, said during a roundtable briefing. (Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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