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Saturday, January 14, 2017, 16:23

Australia, Japan boost ties

By Agencies

Australia, Japan boost ties
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull at Kirribilli House in Sydney, Jan 14, 2017. (Brook Mitchell/Pool Photo via AP)

SYDNEY — The leaders of Australia and Japan agreed on Saturday to boost cooperation between their militaries.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull said they had signed an upgraded defense agreement after talks in Sydney on trade and regional security issues. The leaders said the pact would allow their militaries to provide each other with logistical support during exercises, and are working toward an agreement that would make it easier to participate in joint military exercises.

The relationship between Australia and Japan is closer, stronger and more constructive than ever

Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Prime Minister

"The relationship between Australia and Japan is closer, stronger and more constructive than ever," Turnbull told reporters after meeting Abe.

Abe arrived in Sydney from the Philippines on Friday on the second leg of a four-nation swing intended to boost Japan's trade and security engagements. After Australia, he visits Indonesia and Vietnam.

Abe and Turnbull also reaffirmed their support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the 12-nation trade pact that incoming US President Donald Trump has vowed to scrap. Still, both noted the importance of maintaining their relationships with the United States, and pledged to work constructively with the controversial leader.

"For both of our nations, the United States remains the cornerstone of our strategic and security arrangements," Turnbull said. "And our respective alliances for the United States are as relevant and important today as they have ever been. We'll work closely with the incoming administration as we have been to advance the region's interests and our shared goals."

READ MORE: Japan’s delicate diplomatic balance

With all the focus on the economy and security, there were some who argued that Turnbull should have added to the agenda the current illegal whaling Japanese fishermen are conducting in Australian waters in the Southern Ocean.

Speaking to Xinhua, Australian Greens Senator Nick McKim said he rejects suggestions that Turnbull should avoid the delicate subject in order to protect the bilateral relationship, and wants Turnbull's strong border stance extended to protecting Australia's waters from illegal whalers.

"Mr Turnbull has again shown he does not have the courage to speak up for the magnificent marine creatures being illegally slaughtered by Japan. If Australia's relationship with Japan is as strong as Mr Turnbull claims, it provides the perfect opportunity for disagreements to be raised and addressed," McKim said.

"As for Mr Abe, he should ensure that the AU$1 million Australian Federal Court fine is paid and show some respect to the ICJ decision," he said.

An Australian court in 2015 has fined a Japanese whaling company 1 million Australian dollars for whale hunting within an Australian whale sanctuary.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) had ordered Japan in 2014 to stop the "annual massacre of whales in the Antarctic Ocean."

Japanese state media reported earlier in the day that there were a few key points that Abe was looking to discuss with Turnbull, including making the military pact between the two nations more robust, discussing freedom of navigation measures, and ensuring the TPP comes into effect.

Abe is expected back in Japan on Tuesday.

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