Canberra to sign security deal with Japan | Asia Pacific

Canberra to sign security deal with Japan

Canberra to sign security deal with Japan

Updated 20 March 2012, 5:35 AEDT

Japan and Australia has preparing to sign a defence and security agreement.

Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says it won't have the status of a treaty, and Beijing should not be upset, because the security deal is not aimed at containment of China.

DOBELL: Australia has long supported the United States view that Japan needs to take an increased security role in Asia, in line with Japan's economic strength. The proposed defence and security declaration will be formally announced when Australia's

Prime Minister, John Howard, visits Japan next month. Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says the declaration won't have the treaty status of the US alliance with Japan or Australia's alliance with the US.

DOWNER: They'd be pretty reluctant to get into any sort of formal security treaty over and above the arrangement they have with the United States. But I think they do feel reasonably comfortable with the idea of a statement which articulates the cooperation there is between Australia and Japan in security areas and that we want to build for the future. But our security cooperation with Japan, is going to focus on things like counter terrorism and disaster relief, peacekeeping. It's not a statement which is designed to sort of prepare for war.

DOBELL: The declaration follows the lines of the trilateral security dialogue between Japan, Australia and the United States. The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, says the trilateral talks are aimed to seeing that China is not a negative force, a line she pushed at her meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Japan and Australia in Sydney last year.

RICE: We've said that we have concerns about the Chinese military buildup. We've told the Chinese they need to transparent.

DOBELL: Australia, though, has been at pains to argue that the trilateral dialogue with Japan and the US is not aimed at containing China. And Mr Downer says the new security deal with Tokyo is in the same category. He says China should not be upset.

DOWNER: Well it's not a statement that's directed at all at China. In fact we have an excellent relationship with China and in fact I've been very pleased to see that the Japanese Government since the election of Mr Abe as the Prime Minister of Japan, building up its relationship with China. So China shouldn't have any cause for concern. We certainly have always said we have no policy of containment or isolation of China, quite the contrary. We believe the more we engage China, bilaterally and within our region and beyond, the better that is.

DOBELL: Australia's push for greater military cooperation role for Japan is in stark contrast to the hostility expressed by China and South Korea in the history wars and their claim that Tokyo needs to acknowledge its actions in World War Two. Mr Downer's father was a prisoner of war of the Japanese and he points to that history in arguing for a modern relationship with Japan.

DOWNER: Well my father was in the Changi prisoner of war camp for three and a half years so I'm acutely conscious of these sensitivities of many Australians in relation to dealing with Japan. But I take my lead from my father and I mean, you just have to move on. We have an excellent, of course economic, but we also have a very good political relationship with Japan and I want to maintain the momentum with that relationship into the future. I don't think there would be many war veterans who, and there aren't many war veterans, who are opposed to building our relationship, a modern relationship, with Japan.

DOBELL: The Australian military has worked with Japanese forces in recent times in Cambodia during the UN peace process and in East Timor after the UN intervention. And Australian troops provided protection for Japanese engineers in Iraq. The Prime Minister, John Howard, says sensitivities from World War 2 should not impact on a new defence and security agreement with Japan - nor the possibility that Japanese troops could train on Australian soil.

HOWARD: Japan has become a wonderful friend and ally of Australia's. And when we said we would send some troops to southern Iraq to provide security for the Japanese engineers, my recall was that was very warmly received in Australia. And Australians rather like the idea of Australians and Japanese forces working together. And it's a very valuable relationship. It has a lot of characteristics. Whilst it's by no means certain that is going to happen - it's speculation, the training bit - as a matter of principles I don't think Australians would mightily object to it, I really don't.

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