Japan PM Abe says door always open for China talks

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks back after arriving at the Fairbairn defence establishment in Canberra on July 7, 2014. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has played down recent tensions with neighbour China, saying the countries were "
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks back after arriving at the Fairbairn defence establishment in Canberra on July 7, 2014. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has played down recent tensions with neighbour China, saying the countries were "inextricably linked" and his door was always open for dialogue. -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has played down recent tensions with neighbour China, saying the countries were "inextricably linked" and his door was always open for dialogue.

Tokyo and Beijing have long been at odds over islands in the East China Sea with simmering distrust flaring more recently after Japan moved to loosen the bonds on its powerful military.

Abe was in Canberra on Tuesday where he and counterpart Tony Abbott were expected to sign an agreement on closer defence ties, a move that could further anger China.

In an interview with The Australian broadsheet, Abe said he was keen to nurture a mutually beneficial relationship with Beijing, while urging China to play a constructive role in regional security.

"Japan and China are inextricably linked to each other. It is not uncommon for various unresolved issues to exist between neighbouring countries," he said.

"China is a major country which, together with Japan and Australia, has to play a prominent role in ensuring the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

"It is my strong expectation China will abide by international norms and play a constructive role in dealing with regional issues.

"In accordance with the principle of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, I would like to develop relations with China in a way that keeps a broad perspective.

"My door is always open for dialogue. I sincerely hope that China takes the same approach." China last week lashed out at Abe after his cabinet formally endorsed a reinterpretation of a constitutional clause banning the use of armed force except in very narrowly-defined circumstances.

Beijing argued that it could open the door to remilitarisation of a country it considers insufficiently penitent for its actions in World War II.

Tensions also continue to simmer over the hotly contested Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus.

During his visit to Australia, Abe was due to attend a meeting of the cabinet-level National Security Committee in Canberra and address parliament, the first Japanese leader to do so.

The two sides are expected to finalise a deal to share defence technology, which could lead to closer cooperation on submarine technology and an increase in joint military training.

Abe said in the interview that Australia and Japan had become "strategic partners through deepening concrete defence cooperation", as well as through joint peacekeeping efforts, joint military exercises and exchanges of defence leaders.