SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was taken to task on social media Thursday for tweeting a "cringe-worthy" photo of himself with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe posing by a giant tyre.
Abbott travelled with Abe on Wednesday to the Pilbara mining heartland in Western Australia where they visited Rio Tinto's West Angelas mine.
The trip was designed to reinforce the importance of Australian iron ore to Japan -- but it was the leaders' pose against a giant dusty tyre, each with a leg raised to show off their new Australian boots, that drew the most attention.
"The unlikely pair certainly hit it off, giggling over glasses of West Australian wine, getting sloppy on sake, and bonding at Australia's beautiful backdrops," said the Rupert Murdoch-run news.com.au.
"But this cringe-worthy corker posted by the PM last night has yet another Abbott embarrassment written all over it."
The picture shows the two conservative leaders wearing safety glasses as they show off their black boots, made by Australian company RM Williams.
"PM Abe wearing his gift from Australia -- RM Williams boots. Both proud to be wearing them today," Abbott tweeted.
Fellow Twitter users saw the funny side.
"Apparently it was about the boots. Australian PM Tony Abbott in bizarre crotch shot photo op," tweeted one, while another said: "Whoever on his staff that suggested this photo op needs to be fired so badly."
Some social media users felt sympathy for Abe, who spent two days in Australia.
"Can't imagine Abe's discomfort. Would have felt compelled to do it," one said of the picture.