POLITICS

Turnbull To Meet Japanese PM, But One Issue Trumps All

Regional security and U.S. policy will be high on the agenda.

13/01/2017 1:25 PM AEDT | Updated 13/01/2017 10:11 PM AEDT
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POOL New / Reuters
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) speaks as his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe listens during their joint news conference at the Akasaka Palace state guesthouse in Tokyo, in 2015.

Donald Trump's impending presidency and regional security are widely expected to top the agenda of talks between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Sydney on Saturday.

Taking a break from cleaning up the mess of his MP's entitlements scandal, Turnbull is expected to spend the weekend focussing on international relations, Asia-pacific security and the Trans-Pacific Partnership with his Japanese counterpart.

Abe, the second world leader to meet Trump after his election in November, is in town as part of a six day regional tour as he works to boost Asia-Pacific ties in the face of an increasingly assertive China in the South China Sea.

The visit also comes amid looming uncertainties about incoming president Trump's commitment to the Trans Pacific Partnership, amid mixed signals between the President elect and his team.

The incoming U.S. administration has also signalled its willingness for a potential conflict with China, with Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, telling a congressional confirmation hearing this week China should be denied access to its controversial artificial islands in the South China Sea.

China Stringer Network / Reuters
China's Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducts a drill in an area of South China Sea, in this undated photo taken December, 2016.

China hasn't been shy about fortifying its claim to the South China Sea, recently sending its only aircraft carrier, Liaoning, into the Taiwan Strait on a drill.

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating lashed out at Tillerson on Friday, warning the secretary of state-designate's comments could only be read as threatening to involve Australia in a war with China.

Dr Amy King, a senior lecturer in economics and security in the Asia-Pacific region at ANU, told the ABC Japan and Australia faced a dilemma with China and the U.S.

"You both want the U.S. to be engaged to help to deal with the issue of a rising China, but you don't want the United States to incite a conflict with China over an issue like the South China Sea," she said.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is also expected to be top of the agenda, with both Turnbull and Abe considered enthusiastic supporters of the controversial trade deal.

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo on Thursday said the TPP is not dead yet following comments from Tillerson that he did not oppose it.

Trump has previously said he'd kill it off after his January 20 inauguration.

"There are different views within the US political system, including by senior congressional Republican leaders, and I think we just need to give the Americans time to work through this issue," Ciobo told the ABC on Friday.

Kyodo News via Getty Images
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during an upper house special panel session on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in Tokyo on Dec. 1, 2016. Opposition parties have said Abe's rush to ratify the TPP is pointless, given the 12-party trade pact's slim chances of obtaining U.S. ratification under the upcoming presidency of Donald Trump.

Japan ratified the deal last year and it is still before the Australian parliament.

Without the US, the fate of the TPP is uncertain.


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