SYDNEY: Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday said Australia’s closer ties with Tokyo would not hurt relations with China after a successful and productive visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
During Abe’s two-day trip, in which he became the first Japanese leader to address the Australian parliament, major free trade and security deals were sealed, including the sharing of defense technology.
China is Australia’s biggest trading partner and has been restrained in any reaction, although its state media hit out at Abbott’s “appalling” speech to parliament.
During the address, he honored the courage of Japanese submariners during World War II.
Abbott, who repeatedly during Abe’s trip referred to their “special” relationship, said there was room for bilateral ties with both Japan and China to blossom.
“The point I make is that when it comes to international friendships, it is not a zero sum game. It is possible to strengthen a range of friendships simultaneously,” he said when asked by reporters if ties with Beijing had been hurt.
“We are working on a free trade deal with China, I am still reasonably optimistic we will succeed there. We want better friendships with everyone,” he added.
His comments came as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia was not afraid to stand up to China to defend peace and the rule of law.
“China doesn’t respect weakness,” she said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday.
This tougher stance was on display most recently last month when Canberra backed comments by the United States accusing China of “destabilizing” actions in the South China Sea, where it is involved in territorial disputes.