Japan to work with Australia for regional stability

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida conveyed to his Australian counterpart on Tuesday Tokyo's willingness to work with Canberra in maintaining regional stability and peace, and in concluding ongoing negotiations for a pan-Pacific free trade agreement.

"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," Kishida told a news conference after meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Tokyo.

Bishop, speaking at the same news conference, welcomed the security policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is seeking to change the government's interpretation of Japan's Constitution to allow it to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

"The Australian government welcomes the direction that the Abe government has taken in terms of having a more normal defense posture and being able to take a constructive role in regional and global security," she said.

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership 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.

The two foreign ministers also discussed ways to further strengthen bilateral ties, such as the ongoing negotiations for a free trade agreement and people-to-people exchanges, according to Kishida.

The other issues likely to have been on the agenda during the ministerial meeting include cooperation in disarmament and nonproliferation efforts involving Japan, Australia and 10 other countries that do not possess nuclear weapons.

Bishop, who is making her first visit to Japan as foreign minister, met with Abe at the prime minister's office in Tokyo earlier Tuesday. She is scheduled to end her three-day visit to Japan on Wednesday.