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Australian Current Affairs

Australian Prime Minister says “Japan is our closest friend in Asia”


Tony Abbott and Shinzo Abe

Tony Abbott and Shinzo Abe

Tony Abbott has declared Japan Australia’s “closest friend in Asia”, elevating the former World War II aggressor past both China and Indonesia as he continued his regional charm offensive.

Mr Abbott met the conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the 18-member East Asia Summit being held over two days in the tiny sultanate of Brunei.

The talks between the two leaders were described as “exceptionally warm” and covered a range of topics from trade to security, with Mr Abbott effectively endorsing Japan’s re-emergence as a strategic power.

While the precise language was not released, it is understood Mr Abbott used the talks, one of many such bilateral meetings since attending the APEC and East Asia Summit meetings, to establish relations and to arrange more exchanges at a later time.

As a result of the discussions, Mr Abbott will now add Tokyo to his Beijing visit slated for the first half of next year, a trip in which he is also likely to take in Seoul, South Korea. He has said he will invite business, academic and scientific leaders along as well as some state premiers.

In 2008 then prime minister Kevin Rudd created diplomatic unease by including China in his first big trip but not Japan.

In a concrete manifestation of Mr Abbott’s elevation of Japan to best friend status, Mr Abe has agreed to an invitation to address the Australian Parliament in a joint sitting – an honour extended to few world leaders.

The two leaders discussed free trade negotiations as well as deepening defence and security relations, in a recognition of Tokyo’s increasingly activist military profile, despite its avowedly pacifist stance set out in the constitution.

Sources said the two also discussed Mr Abbott’s new two-way Colombo Plan to send and receive students from the region.

It is understood Mr Abbott told Mr Abe he agreed with Japan’s defensive enhancements and wanted to see the world’s third largest economy also take a more active role in global security.

Mr Abbott arrived in Brunei on Wednesday after departing Bali, Indonesia, where he attended a ceremony at the Bali Memorial for the victims of the 2002 and 2005 bombings.

His comments about Japan may raise eyebrows in Beijing and in Indonesia where he repeatedly said Jakarta was Canberra’s most important relationship.

Mr Abbott was also due to meet with the leaders of South Korea and the Philippines while in Brunei.

Source: The Age – Tony Abbott says Japan is Australia’s ‘closest friend in Asia’
 

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

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