Japan, Australia Vow to Work With Trump on Regional Security

  • Abe, Turnbull agree to coordinate on South China Sea
  • Leaders urge Trans-Pacific free trade in face of Trump threat

Japan and Australia agreed to enhance coordination on Asian security issues, including the South China Sea and North Korea, at a meeting of the two countries’ leaders on Saturday, while reaffirming that the U.S. remains the cornerstone of their strategic arrangements. 

“We confirmed our intention to maintain solid cooperation with the incoming Trump administration,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in Sydney following a meeting with Australian leader Malcolm Turnbull. The pair agreed to deepen military ties, including more joint training exercises.

On the South China Sea, Turnbull said he “urged all parties to exercise self-restraint, and to avoid actions that would escalate tensions, including the militarization of outposts in the South China Sea.”

Abe was in Sydney as part of a four-nation tour aimed at bolstering trade and security cooperation amid mutual concerns about China’s actions in the South China Sea and uncertainty over the policies of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

China and Vietnam, in a separate accord, pledged to manage their maritime differences and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea, China’s Xinhua news agency said on Saturday. The two governments agreed to avoid any acts that could escalate tensions, according to a communique.

Trump Pressure

Japan and Australia could come under increasing pressure from Trump to act as a bulwark to China in the region.

Incoming U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate this week that he was in favor of blocking China’s access to artificial islands it was building in the South China Sea, and that U.S. allies in the region should provide backup in this task.

Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating said Tillerson was threatening to involve Australia in a war with China, describing his comments as “simply ludicrous.”

Abe and Turnbull also presented a united front in their support for free trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which Trump has said he will kill off on his first day in office. 

“We agreed we would coordinate on the early entry into force of the TPP,” Abe said.

Earlier, Turnbull urged resistance to protectionist moves. “It is imperative we resist those voices urging us to close ourselves off from the world, because protectionism is a path to poverty,” he wrote in an article for the Australian newspaper.

Abe, who has also visited the Philippines, flies to Indonesia on Sunday and will round off his trip in Vietnam.

— With assistance by Linly Lin

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