Visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Friday in Tokyo, issuing a joint statement touting their “special strategic partnership” and opposing any “coercive actions” that would change the “status quo” in either the East or South China Sea.
The joint statement also said the two leaders “called on all claimants to halt large-scale land reclamation or construction, and to refrain from using any land features for military purposes.”
Though no country was named in the statement, the remarks are thought to be directly aimed at keeping China in check.
China claims most of South China Sea and the Japan-controlled Senkaku islets in the East China Sea, which have raised diplomatic tensions with some Southeast Asian nations and Japan. The Senkakus are called Diaoyu in China.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Turnbull said that he expressed his “deep disappointment over Japan’s resumption of whaling” during the summit meeting with Abe.
The whaling issue is “one of the few things on which we disagree,” Turnbull said at the State Guest House in the Akasaka district.
The Australian leader otherwise praised Abe’s commitment to reaffirm bilateral cooperation, including on promoting technological “innovations” in the economy, a keyword in his economic policy pledges back in Australia.
Australia has faced a recent economic slowdown due to price falls in the export-heavy resources sector.
Turnbull has pledged to promote technological innovation to change the country’s industrial structures.
As he played up bilateral agreements to promote industrial exchanges with Japan, he took the opportunity to pose for a photograph with the Asimo humanoid robot made by Honda Motor Co. in Tokyo’s Odaiba district.
Turnbull, who took up his position in September following his party’s ouster of predecessor Tony Abbott, is in Japan on a tight one-day itinerary. His visit was based on an earlier agreement of annual mutual visits by the top leaders of the two countries.
“Both of us recognize that maintenance of peace, founded upon commitment to and compliance to a rule-based international order, is absolutely critical” for the Asia-Pacific region, Turnbull said at the beginning of the summit talk, which was open to media.
“I have no doubt that the friendship between Japan and Australia will continue to grow stronger and deeper,” he also said.
According to Japanese officials, during the closed part of the meeting, Abe explained Japan’s proposal for joint production of a modified version of Japan’s latest Soryu-class submarine, which experts say is one of the world’s best and quietest nonnuclear submarines.
Turnbull thanked Japan for its proposal but only said Australia will make a decision in the first half of the next year, the Japanese officials said.
France and Germany have proposed their own plans to export submarines to Australia. Canberra is set to choose one model through a competitive evaluation process.
In the joint statement, the two leaders also expressed “strong support for the United States rebalance” policy to maintain it military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S. is believed to be supporting Japan’s bid to export submarines to Australia, hoping it will further strengthen trilateral military cooperations in the region.