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Japanese PM to Make Historic Visit to Darwin

Japanese PM to Make Historic Visit to DarwinJapanese PM to Make Historic Visit to Darwin

Seventy-five years after his nation’s imperial forces bombed Darwin, Japan’s prime minister will make a historic visit to the city to help cement modern day relations with Australia.

Shinzo Abe is scheduled to be welcomed to the Northern Territory by the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November, before both men fly to Port Moresby for the APEC meeting of regional leaders.

Japan’s massive $34 billion INPEX gas pipeline project will be the focus of Abe’s visit, but closer military ties are also expected to be high on the agenda when the two leaders meet.

Abe’s is the first visit to Darwin by a Japanese leader since forces struck the key military port, killing more than 250 people across multiple bombings in 1942 and 1943.

Earlier this year Abe and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed to work towards increased defense cooperation, including joint training exercises between both militaries.

The Royal Australian Air Force was this month due to begin Exercise “Bushido Guardian” with Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, but the activity was cancelled due to the earthquake in Hokkaido.

Officials have told the ABC negotiations to bring Japanese forces to northern Australia for joint training exercises are “progressing well” but it is unclear whether a final announcement on timing can be made when Abe is in Darwin.

Senior Defense and Government figures have told the ABC November’s meeting in Darwin is likely to be closely watched in Beijing given China has already expressed concerns with the rotation of US marines through the Northern Territory.

Those involved in preparations for Abe’s historic two-day visit have also told the ABC the premier is scheduled to go to Darwin’s cenotaph to pay official respects to Australian and Japanese war dead.

Dr Bec Strating from La Trobe University says it will be an important visit for the new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “Given the changing security dynamics across the Indo-Pacific region, it is incredibly important that Australia looks to regional partners such as Japan and consolidates and grows those relationships,” she said.

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