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Japan, Australia Sign Landmark Defense Pact
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Japan and Australia Tuesday signed a joint declaration on strategic security cooperation, vowing to strengthen ties in security and defense issues.

The declaration was signed later in the day by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who is on a four-day tour in Japan starting Sunday.

In the joint declaration, the two countries pledge to coordinate policies over counter-terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, and the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, and will have closer cooperation on UN peacekeeping operations.

According to the declaration, Japan and Australia will establish measures in an action plan for joint efforts on disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, maritime and aviation security, and fighting against international crimes.

The two prime ministers also agreed to organize regular meetings between defense and foreign ministers from the two sides under the framework of "two-plus-two" security talks.

With the issuance of the joint declaration, Australia became the one after the United States to conclude a security cooperation framework with Japan.

To build up all-around strategic partnership with Australia is an important step toward the realization of the overall diplomatic arrangement of Abe, who proposed shortly after taking office in September that Japan and the United States should strengthen ties with Australia and India.

Analysts said Abe also intended to use the newborn declaration to appease criticism over his administration's excessive dependence on the United States.

During an exclusive interview with Australian journalists in his official residence on Monday, Abe stressed that the declaration between Japan and Australia will not be aimed at China.

(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2007)

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