Canberra's foreign policies are a puzzle. Australia depends on China to take 35 percent of its exports. It may have to depend even more as its manufacturing base implodes — past mistakes mean it is about to lose almost all its car manufacturing industry. Yet Australia's new conservative government has chosen this moment to tell the world that it wants to cooperate with Japan and the United States in their anti-China policies.

Consistency is not the first word that springs to mind when Canberra's policies are considered. Australia's new foreign minister, Julie Bishop, passed through Tokyo recently, praising Japan as Australia's best friend in Asia and criticizing China's pressures in the Senkaku Islands dispute. She went out of her way to trace Australia's allegedly good relations with Japan back to a 1957 commerce agreement.

Her speechwriter even had her noting a 1950 speech by former Prime Minister Robert Menzies as the harbinger of those good relations. But at the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty talks with Japan just a year later, a viscerally anti-Japan Australia took the lead in insisting that Japan be punished for its wartime aggression by being stripped of all the territory it had gained through that aggression, including the southern Kuril islands of Etorofu and Kunashiri, which it had gained peacefully.