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Australian PM in Japan to Boost Military, Economic Ties


FILE - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivers a speech in Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 18, 2015.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull traveled to Japan Thursday on a mission to boost defense ties amid China's aggressive maritime expansion and North Korea's escalating nuclear weapons program.

Turnbull and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, toured a military training base outside Tokyo at the start of the Australian leader's one-day visit.

During the visit, Turnbull warned that the international community needs to be "very clear-eyed" about the recent diplomatic overtures between North and South Korea over the North's participation in the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in the South. He said Pyongyang as a "long habit of ratcheting up their militarization and then going into a lull for a while" to convince the world it has changed, before repeating the process again and again.

Turnbull said the international sanctions on North Korea must be maintained.

Turnbull and Abe are aiming to put the finishing touches on a new security pact that includes a visiting forces agreement, which legally defines the operational status of one country's military force when it is deployed to the other.

The visiting forces agreement would be a first of its kind for Japan. Prime Minister Abe has sought to expand the country's military posture beyond its post-World War II pacifist constitution, which limits it to a strictly self-defense force.

Turnbull and Abe will also discuss boosting bilateral economic ties, including a push to sign the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal.

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