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Australia

Japan's Abe ends rare Australia visit

Japanese premier Shinzo Abe has completed a rare trip to Australia. Prime Minister Tony Abbot has denied that closer links to Tokyo will upset Australia's large parallel trade ties with China.

Abe left Australia's major mining state of West Australia on Thursday, saying relations between both countries had been made "much closer." Abe's next stop is Papua New Guinea.

China and resource-poor Japan - as long-time Asian rivals - have in recent decades both become top importers of Australian iron ore and energy supplies such as coal.

Abe, together with Abbott, inspected Japanese technology used at a recently expanded iron ore mine run by Rio Tinto at Pilbara, a key Indian Ocean export region which lies some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) north of the Perth, the capital of the state of Western Australia.

Abe was quoted by Australian media as saying in Perth that he was impressed by the vast size of Australia during the five hours it took him to fly from Canberra to Western Australia.

Post-war speech

During his visit to Canberra, Abe addressed Australia's federal parliament, becoming the first Japanese leader to do so since hostilities across the Pacific region during World War Two.

Between 1939 until 1945, Australian troops fought imperial Japan which was aligned with Nazi Germany.

Abe, whose government eased a four-decade ban on military exports in April, told Australia's parliament on Tuesday that Japan "should play a greater role for peace and prosperity" in the Asia-Pacific region.

He also signed an economic partnership pact as well as an agreement on military equipment and technology transfers. Australia is interested in purchasing diesel-electric submarines or components from Japan to extend patrols of the Indian Ocean.

'Friendships with everyone,' says Abbott

Rounding off their visit to Western Australia, Abbott said "we want better friendships with everyone."

"We want a better friendship with Japan, and I think pretty obviously we are getting that, but we also want a better friendship with China," Abbott said.

Last month, Abbott's conservative government backed comments by the United States which accused China or "destabilizing" actions in the South China Sea.

The maritime region is the scene of multiple territorial disputes linked to hopes for oil and gas extraction involving not only China and Japan but also Taiwan and Vietnam.

Anti-whaling letter handed to Abe

In Canberra, Abe was handed an anti-whaling letter by Australian Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson.

The letter from the Canada-based organization Sea Shepherd warned that its vessels would resume harassment of Japanese whaling ships if another Antarctic whale hunt went ahead.

In April, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Japanese whaling in the South Ocean was a commercial venture and had no research value as claimed by Tokyo. New Zealand and Australia had sought the ruling in the Dutch city of The Hague.

Japan then called off its 2014-15 Antarctic season but Abe more recently signaled that he intended to find ways to resume it without breaching the ICJ ban.

ipj/slk (AFP, Reuters)

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