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Australia to Seek Alliance with Japan, US - 2002-05-01

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says he intends to pursue a tripartite regional security dialogue with Japan and the United States.

In a joint news conference with the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Mr. Howard dismissed suggestions the alliance was aimed at containing China's rising power in the Asia-Pacific region. The idea of a trilateral alliance between the United States, Australia and Japan was first raised during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to Canberra last August as a way of strengthening ties in the East Asian region and countering the perceived threat of Chinese power.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the concept should not be seen as a provocative act against China. It was, he said, important that the United States and Australia played a role in protecting the region from instability.

Mr. Howard said high-level talks with Washington towards a security dialogue would soon begin and Japan and Australia had important parts to play.

"We are both liberal democracies. We have cooperated very closely in the fight against terrorism," he said. "We see the security relationship between our two countries vis-a-vis the United States as extremely important and we again endorse the value of a trilateral security dialogue at a senior level."

Prime Ministers Howard and Koizumi also agreed to hold talks to tighten trade and economic ties aimed at eventually signing a free trade agreement. Japanese barriers to Australian agriculture exports, such as rice and beef, have dampened hopes for a quick-free trade deal, with Australia now expecting years of tough negotiations. Mr. Koizumi, facing a powerful agricultural lobby at home, agreed a free trade pact would take time.

Mr. Howard also repeated Australia's support for Japan becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Japan has been vying for a place on the Security Council for many years. It wants to reflect its status as the world's second largest economy.