Japan, Australia seen boosting support for Pacific nations

PHOTO: Reuters

The governments of Japan and Australia are expected to agree to co-operate more in supporting island nations in the Pacific Ocean, sources said.

The aim of the strategy is to check China's advances in the region through infrastructure and other improvements.

A broad agreement on the matter is expected in the so-called two-plus-two meeting of Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Defence Minister Gen Nakatani, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne, which is scheduled for Sunday in Sydney, the sources said.

An official decision could be made when Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meets with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his first visit to Japan, which may be as early as December.

The Pacific strategy would cover the 14 Pacific island nations, including Papua New Guinea and Fiji, that take part in a Pacific Ocean and island summit that is held every three years.

Cooperation between Japan and Australia would centre on:

  • Initiatives such as promoting high-quality infrastructure improvements, trade investment and support for fishing industries;
  • Strengthening naval security capabilities by providing patrol boats and training personnel; and
  • Improving responsiveness to typhoons, tsunami, earthquakes and other disasters.

In recent years China has made huge investments in ports and in other improvements in the region, while Chinese companies have made striking advances.

China has sought to establish fueling stations for its warships and other vessels in the Pacific Ocean, both for national security reasons but also with the aim of establishing diplomatic relations with Palau and five other countries that have official ties with Taiwan.

The oceanic area in which these nations are located has important sea lanes that supply both Japan and Australia with natural gas, coal and other resources.

Due to China's continuing advances in the East and South China Seas, there is a sense of wariness over what could happen in this region as well.

The Japanese and Australian governments hope that by working together they can increase the effects of the support they are already providing individually, to ensure they remain influential with these island nations, the sources said.

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