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Japan pushes for closer ties

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Mark Kenny, David Wroe, Philip Wen

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Shinzo Abe 'scrums down' with Aus MPs

Japanese Prime Minister praises Australia and Japan's close ties and cracks jokes in a landmark speech to a special sitting of parliament.

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has used a historic address to the Australian Parliament to move the two countries closer to a strategic defence alliance in a development certain to anger Beijing.

''There are many things Japan and Australia can do together by each of us joining hands with the United States, an ally for both our nations'': Shinzo Abe.

''There are many things Japan and Australia can do together by each of us joining hands with the United States, an ally for both our nations'': Shinzo Abe. Photo: Bloomberg

Declaring a new Japanese ''determination'' to behave as a normal nation in the international sphere following a period of being ''self-absorbed'' on security matters, the hawkish Prime Minister stopped short of directly criticising Chinese territorial expansion.

But his speech left little doubt as to Tokyo's new activist defence posture - ditching its postwar pacifist stance - and its related desire for closer strategic co-ordination with Australia and the US.

That will no doubt fuel suspicions in Beijing that western powers are pursuing a containment strategy regarding China.

''There are many things Japan and Australia can do together by each of us joining hands with the United States, an ally for both our nations,'' he told the special joint sitting of Parliament.

''Japan is now working to change its legal basis for security so that we can act jointly with other countries in as many ways as possible.''

In a subsequent press conference after the two leaders signed a new Economic Partnership Agreement, Mr Abe went further, however, describing the Tokyo-Beijing relationship as ''one of the most important bilateral relationships'' but then blaming China for a deterioration.

''The door for dialogue is always open from the Japanese side, so I do sincerely hope that the Chinese side will also take the same posture,'' he said.

''The fundamental position of Japan that we are keen to improve our relationship with China has been fully explained to Tony, the Prime Minister, but, however, we also discussed … China's attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo.

''China along with Japan and Australia should play a greater role for peace and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region.''

He added that it was important that China ''share and accept international norms and play a concerted role in the region - that is what I am hoping China will do''.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott praised Japan as an ''exemplary'' and ''model'' international citizen since 1945, despite Mr Abe heralding the resumption of whaling.

Mr Abe said the recent decision by the International Court of Justice had envisaged ''scientific'' programs and revealed Japan would resume the practice in order to collect the ''indispensable scientific information in order to manage the whale resources''.

Mr Abe's comments regarding the rule of law were transparently aimed at Chinese moves in the South and East China seas where it has simmering disputes with neighbours including Vietnam and the Philippines raising fears for the future security of sea lanes.

''I believe strongly that when Japan and Australia, sharing the common values, join hands, these natural rules will become the norm for the seas of prosperity that stretch from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian,'' he said.

Relations between China and Japan are at a dangerously low point, and Beijing views the Australian visit as part of Japan's plan to rally its neighbours to counter China's rise.

''In everything we say and do, we must follow the law and never fall back into force and coercion,'' Mr Abe said. ''When there are disputes, we must always use peaceful means to find solutions.''

China last week hit out at Mr Abe after his cabinet endorsed a reinterpretation of a constitutional clause banning the used of armed force, except in narrowly-defined circumstances.

This diplomatic juggling act was underlined as Mr Abbott sought to reassure Beijing that the strengthening of ties with Tokyo was ''not a partnership against anyone''.

The two leaders signed a defence research agreement that could pave the way for Japan sharing with Australia its widely admired submarine technology as Australia prepares to shop for a successor to the ageing Collins class.

Defence Minister David Johnston said Australia wanted to strengthen the three-way defence co-operation between Australia, Japan and the US based on their ''common set of democratic values and similar strategic perspectives'' - another emphasis likely to irritate Beijing.

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24 comments

  • Amid the flurry of mandatory gesturing, how did Monsignor Abbott's Sunday School introduction grab ya True Believers? For this Unbeliever, 15 nanoseconds of it was an agony only satisfied when His Laudship's Voice disappeared down the Royal Gurgler with a Great Big Gall-Omp.

    Commenter
    Geronimo
    Location
    Yippee Yi Yo
    Date and time
    July 09, 2014, 7:52AM
    • Also good to see our PM for Indigenous Affairs recognising the original landowners. Or was he acting as the Minister for women yesterday?

      Commenter
      Get Real
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 9:32AM
    • I would rather trust the leader of Japan than some other leaders in that region, moreso as big trouble is brewing in those localised regions.The trade agreement etc was better than I expected.

      Commenter
      Brian Woods
      Location
      Glenroy
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 11:08AM
    • Abe said, ''Japan is now working to change its legal basis for security so that we can act jointly with other countries in as many ways as possible.''

      This is far more important than any gaffe that Abbott might make. Abe's statement means (and, given it was a prepared speech, there will be no accidental imprecision) that Japan wants allies to, amongst other things, act aggressively against China.

      Abe again: "... we also discussed … China's attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo."

      On the topic of unilaterally altering the status quo, Japan has some form. Ask the people of Korea And the people of China. And the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and VIetnam. The Peace Constitution is there for a reason.

      Of more contemporary relevance, however, is the controversy over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Japan acquired them in 1895 as part of the First Sino-Japanese War, when it annexed Taiwan (note: a unilateral change to the status quo). They should have been returned to China in 1945, but were retained by the US for military purposes until 1972, when they were handed over to Japan.

      This article states: "That will no doubt fuel suspicions in Beijing that western powers are pursuing a containment strategy regarding China."

      Looking at the history, and how China has the stronger claim to these uninhabitable rocks, it seems quite clear that containment is exactly what's going on.

      Commenter
      Greg Platt
      Location
      Brunswick
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 1:12PM
    • Nah, why talk about the story when you can just abuse Abbott again? If the government was to listen to most of you lot, we wouldn't have agreements with any nation for fear of upsetting another. Why don't we just settle it once and for all, Abbott haters unite and tell us who we are allowed to deal with.

      Commenter
      Shaking Eagle
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 1:52PM
    • The Japanese can spot a sucker when they find one.

      Commenter
      GOV
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 2:07PM
  • Defense co-operation and intel. sharing with Japan appears sensible given China's ambitions to dominate the east and south China seas. However Australia needs to be careful not to entangle itself in a conflict between China and Japan, which would conceivably be a naval clash involving control of disputed islands. In my view China has played its foreign policy very badly in recent years. Through its actions and naval build up it has caused much anxiety in the region resulting in neighboring countries building up their own armed forces.

    Commenter
    martin
    Date and time
    July 09, 2014, 9:14AM
    • I would hate to see a China with a siege mentality...

      Commenter
      Sausagefingers
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 9:16AM
      • Good point Sausage but they have it already. 1940's war movies dominate the TV schedule.

        The real schism is inside China though. Those ppl at the top rake off big money while the school system drills young minds about being good communists. Spot the irony in that?

        Commenter
        Tom
        Location
        Shanghai
        Date and time
        July 09, 2014, 3:54PM
    • Tony Abbott may be a politician but a diplomat he certainly is not. China will view this liaison with hawkish Japan as Japan's way to deliberately isolate China from south-east Asia. Japan is doing this with America's backing as a means to contain China. Australia needs to be cautious as China has already sign an agreement with Russia to supply gas as an alternate energy source starting in 2015 and Australia's supply of coal to China will dwindle rapidly.

      Commenter
      Dr Steve
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 9:17AM

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