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Abe, Turnbull view Japanese special forces in action

20 January 2018

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull had a summit meeting in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon for talks on strengthening bilateral security and defense cooperation in response to regional tensions amid North Korea's nuclear and missile development and China's maritime ambitions.

"The signal to North Korea is one of absolute solidarity between Australia, Japan, the United States, China - and indeed the rest of the global community", Mr Turnbull said.

Turnbull's Japan visit took place as both countries' ties with China have recently soured.

Turnbull is visiting Japan for the second time, following his first trip in December 2015.

"It is manifestly in Australia's interests and in Japan's interests".

China initially claimed that the islands of the Spratly and Paracel chains - which are claimed wholly or in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia - were merely being equipped with navigation and harbor facilities to assist fishing fleets. Chinese nuclear submarines were spotted around disputed islands between Japan and China in the East China Sea on Monday, while Turnbull criticized Chinese aid programs on Pacific Island countries as exploitative earlier in January.

In a press conference in Beijing on January 11, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, "We hope that certain people in Australia engage in self-reflection instead of pointing fingers at and making irresponsible remarks on other countries".

In January a year ago the two countries reached a revised acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, which allows them to provide ammunition, water, food and other supplies to each other.

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"Australia feels that China is attempting to exert undue influence in their "neighborhood" and that they have gone too far, but that attitude means that there is a real possibility of at least some form of low-level conflict between China and Australia", Okumura added.

Both Mr Abe and Mr Turnbull have both been "energetic advocates" of the agreement.

Abe has sought to loosen the restrictions on his country's military and build a network of security relationships with other USA allies and regional powers that share Japan's concerns about North Korea and China.

An enhanced pact will stipulate the legal status of military personnel temporarily stationed in the partner country for joint exercises.

"Japan and Australia are increasingly looking to each other to diversify their security partnerships and find common ground", said Bates Gill, a professor in security studies at Sydney's Macquarie University.

The unpredictability of Trump, Nagano said, has left its allies questioning America's ability to maintain its presence in Asia, "increasing the need for Japan and Australia to construct a stronger partnership in the Asia Pacific region".

Tokyo and Canberra, alongside nine other nations, also aim to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the framework in January a year ago.