Australia supports Japan's drive to expand use of its military

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 4:48am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 4:48am

Australia yesterday backed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to expand the use of his country's military, hailing it as a "more normal defence posture", a day after Tokyo and Canberra stepped up ties.

Shinzo Abe is pushing to reinterpret Japan's strict pacifist constitution to allow its well-equipped armed forces to fight in defence of an ally, something currently barred.

But he faces opposition at home from those attached to the decades-old constitutional ideal, as well as criticism from China, which accuses him of seeking to remilitarise Japan.

"Australia can see great benefits to our country and to our region, should Japan continue to play a greater constructive role in global and regional peace and security," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in Tokyo.

Referring to military cooperation in past peacekeeping operations in Iraq, South Sudan and other countries, Bishop said: "Any decision by Japan to exercise that right to collective self-defence would only help our cooperation grow stronger."

Video: Japan, Australia eye closer military ties, talk submarines wary of China

The comments came hours after Bishop, together with Defence Minister David Johnston, met their respective opposite numbers in Japan, Fumio Kishida and Itsunori Onodera, and agreed to step up their alliance.

Japan and Australia agreed on Wednesday to jointly develop stealth submarine technology, a top item at talks among the nations' foreign and defence ministers in Tokyo. Johnson brushed off suggestions that Australia, Japan and the US were looking to control the Asia Pacific region, saying humanitarian and disaster relief operations were the ultimate aim of collaborations.

"We have a very close and productive relationship with China and I will be in China later this year ... discussing many of the issues that we've also discussed here," he said.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press