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The Abbott government has decided to more closely align itself with Japan, including on defence technology, at a point when the Japanese government’s abandonment of the country’s deeply pacifist post-war stance on defence is worrying its neighbours.
The Australian government is right to do so: as a liberal democracy, Japan shares many important political and economic values with us. It remains a vital trading partner and source of investment for Australia. Closer cooperation, including on defence, is in Australia’s national interest no matter how much it upsets Beijing or those apologists for China who participate in domestic debate here. And that national interest forms the strategic context for the Prime Minister’s meeting with his Japanese counterpart and the latter’s historic address to Parliament yesterday.
In his Diaries — amid the laments about his diet as he travelled the globe — former foreign minister Bob Carr hit upon an intelligent approach of being more publicly relaxed, “unruffled and unintimidated”, about China. He advocated understanding its concerns, working constructively on our relationship with our most important trading partner, but ultimately not overreacting to its rhetoric regarding the US — or, for that matter, Japan.
Over the last 48 hours, the Abbott government has appeared to both pre-emptively assuage Beijing’s concerns about our closer relationship with Japan and imply that Beijing’s regional ambitions are seen as a threat. In this way, the Australian government risks looking ruffled about China. Tony Abbott and his foreign minister would do well to consider Carr’s more relaxed attitude. We are acting in our national interest — exactly as China expects us to.