Australia at times does some contradictory things in its foreign affairs. It says it seeks a global role, yet it recently dismissed a prime minister, Kevin Rudd, partly because he had been too prominent in seeking a global role. It says it is proud of its role in creating the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and of its close relations with China. But in its 1970s origins, APEC was an anti-China concept designed to have Japan look toward the Pacific nations and away from both China and Russia.

Australia bitterly criticizes Japan for its whaling activities, but few know that back in the Tokugawa days, Australian whalers battled Japanese troops for the right to invade the small Hokkaido town of Akkeshi in search of food and drink. And even fewer are aware of Canberra’s involvement in the creation of two of Japan’s current territorial disputes — with Russia over the southern Kuril Islands (including Kunashiri Island, recently visited by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev over strong Japanese protests) and with South Korea over the island of Takeshima (also the subject of strong Japanese protests).

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