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Tokyo (AFP) Oct 15, 2013
Australia's newly-minted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Tuesday the new government in Canberra intends to keep Japan as its "best friend" in Asia, as it works on relations with China.
Australia's coalition government, which returned to power last month after nearly six years of Labor Party rule, will "put economic diplomacy first," Bishop told a press conference ahead of her talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
She said her government recognises Japan and Australia "share values and strategic interests," including democratic freedoms and positions on regional and global issues.
"Having so much in common, it's not surprising that we should describe Japan as our best friend in Asia -- not only to say it, but mean it," Bishop said, according to Kyodo.
"But that's not to deny that we will continue to work on our relationship with China," she said, adding that Australia can manage its relations with both countries by "being open and frank."
Japan is Australia's second largest trading partner behind China, with A$71 billion ($67 billion) of trade between the countries in 2012, Bishop noted.
The new government, under Liberal leader Tony Abbott, will repeal regulations and certain taxes to attract foreign investment, Bishop said, noting that Japan is the largest Asian investor in the country, according to Kyodo.
After meeting Kishida, Bishop said she welcomed the security policies of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"The Australian government welcomes the direction that the Abe government has taken in terms of having a more normal defence posture and being able to take a constructive role in regional and global security," she told a news conference.
Kishida told the same press conference: "As the regional security environment becomes increasingly severe, Japan hopes to closely cooperate with Australia as our strategic partner at various levels and in various areas in a bid to proactively contribute to regional stability and peace," according to Kyodo.
On the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks, in which Japan, Australia and 10 other Pacific Rim countries are involved, Kishida said Tokyo intends to work with Canberra and play its role for their proposed conclusion by the end of this year.
Tokyo, which only joined the TPP talks in July, is facing domestic opposition to possible cuts in tariffs on key farm products.
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