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Japan, Australia push for defence pact amid tension

19 January 2018

The 2 leaders also discussed bilateral cooperation to achieve Abe's "free and open Indo-Pacific strategy", and confirmed their close cooperation with the USA and India.

Both sides say boosting military co-operation is vital given the tense situation in the region, with North Korea's missile programme bringing the world closer to nuclear conflict than at any time since the Cold War.

Abe and Turnbull confirmed their commitment to realizing a rules-based maritime order amid their wariness about Beijing's expansionary ambitions in the East and South China seas and Indian Ocean.

In the joint statement, the leaders said they "underscored the importance" of such a pact and "directed all relevant ministers to conclude the negotiations as early as (is) feasible".

Canberra meanwhile has criticised China for constructing "useless buildings" in its pouring of aid into Pacific Island nations.

Standing in front of Australian-made military equipment used by the Japanese Self-Defence Forces, Turnbull urged the global community to keep up the pressure on North Korea.

And, the Prime Minister warned the world not to be "glassy eyed" about the decision for the North and South to march under one flag at this year's Winter Olympics, in South Korea.

The envisioned visiting forces agreement would enable the two countries to bring military equipment and ammunition into the other country to make it easier for Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the Australian Defense Force to conduct joint drills.

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Abe and Turnbull agreed that safety in Asia can not be achieved without a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

The two countries have been negotiating such an agreement since 2014.

Turnbull also attended a special meeting of Japan's National Security Council. The two leaders are to discuss deepening security ties, including a potential permanent security partnership.

Last year, they upgraded the agreement in line with the enactment of Japan's state-backed security legislation granting the Self-Defense Forces a greater operational role overseas.

While ministers from the 11 countries have agreed on the "core elements" of the deal, there are question marks over Canada's willingness to ink the deal in its current form after it raised new demands to ensure the pact protects jobs.

"Our six decades of close and trusting collaboration are etched into the skyline of Tokyo and the landscape of the Pilbara", he said, adding that Australia supplies a large majority of Japan's iron ore demand.

Malcolm Turnbull has joked that Australia's support for free trade has gone too far and the nation might need to consider protectionist measures to safeguard its sporting secret weapons from the Japanese.

Japan, Australia push for defence pact amid tension