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Trade, closer defence ties top Australia-Japan agenda

Published on Jul 6, 2014 12:27 PM
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left), accompanied by his wife Akie, waves as he leaves to New Zealand for his Oceanian tour at Tokyo International Airport on July 6, 2014. Abe started a week-long three nations tour of New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea. -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Closer defence cooperation is set to take centre stage when Australia hosts Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week, while the two allies will also shore up a burgeoning trade relationship, analysts say.

It is the first bilateral visit by a Japanese prime minister since 2002 and comes just days after Abe declared his powerful military had the right to go into battle in defence of allies, a move welcomed by Canberra but condemned by China as expansionism.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has courted Japan on security and trade matters since coming to power in September, describing their relationship as "special", as Asia adjusts to China's growing assertiveness in the region.

At the same time, Japan's long-held pacifist stance has evolved under Abe, with his country reaching out to Australia amid escalating tensions between Beijing and its neighbours over islands in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

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