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Australia to keep Japan and China as partners

Julie Bishop, pictured in Canberra/AFP

Julie Bishop, pictured in Canberra/AFP

TOKYO, Oct 15 – Australia’s newly-minted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Tuesday the new government in Canberra intends to keep Japan as its “best friend” in Asia, as it works on relations with China.

Australia’s coalition government, which returned to power last month after nearly six years of Labor Party rule, will “put economic diplomacy first,” Bishop told a press conference ahead of her talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

She said her government recognises Japan and Australia “share values and strategic interests,” including democratic freedoms and positions on regional and global issues.

“Having so much in common, it’s not surprising that we should describe Japan as our best friend in Asia — not only to say it, but mean it,” Bishop said, according to Kyodo.

“But that’s not to deny that we will continue to work on our relationship with China,” she said, adding that Australia can manage its relations with both countries by “being open and frank.”

Japan is Australia’s second largest trading partner behind China, with A$71 billion ($67 billion) of trade between the countries in 2012, Bishop noted.

The new government, under Liberal leader Tony Abbott, will repeal regulations and certain taxes to attract foreign investment, Bishop said, noting that Japan is the largest Asian investor in the country, according to Kyodo.

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