Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that her country’s government intends to keep Japan as its “best friend” in Asia, as both countries have common interests in the region. Bishop confirmed this ahead of her meeting with her Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, all the while expressing that Australia is also working with its relationship with China. Bishop said that “economic diplomacy” will be on top of her list for the meeting.
She said that Australia recognizes that with Japan they ‘share values and strategic interests’, including democratic freedoms and positions on regional and global issues. “Having so much in common, it’s not surprising that we should describe Japan as our best friend in Asia — not only to say it, but mean it,” Bishop said. “But that’s not to deny that we will continue to work on our relationship with China,” she also added, saying that Australia is able to manage its relations with both countries by “being open and frank”. Japan is Australia’s second largest trading partner behind China, with over US.5 billion worth of trade between the countries in 2012, but current relations between Tokyo and Beijing have been strained at best. Bishop says the government will repeal regulations and certain taxes to attract foreign investment, hinting that this will help Japan, as it is the largest Asian investor in the country.
This statement by Bishop effectively echoes what Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said about the relationship between the two trading countries at the East Asia summit in Brunei. Abbot told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Australia considers Japan to be their “closest friend in Asia.” The meeting between the Abe and Abbot was reported to have gone exceptionally well, covering a wide range of topics which includes trade and security. Australia has pledged that it will support Japan’s plan to become more active in a global role in terms of security. Abbott has also added Tokyo to his itinerary next year, when he will be visiting Beijing and probably Seoul in the first half of 2014.