PM backs bigger Japan security role

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has endorsed Tokyo taking a more active military role in the world's trouble spots just days before the Japanese Prime Minister makes an historic visit to WA.

The Japanese Cabinet this week approved a reinterpretation of the country's post-World War II constitution to allow its armed forces to fight overseas.

The change is a major shift at a time of increasing tensions between Japan and China over disputed islands and waters in the East China Sea.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe will arrive in Australia next week and is expected to sign a major defence co-operation agreement with Canberra.

In a highly symbolic gesture, Mr Abe is also expected to sit in on Australia's main national security decision- making body, the National Security Committee.

The Japanese leader will then fly to WA, where he will visit resources projects in the Pilbara and meet business leaders in Perth.

"Japan has been an exemplary international citizen for decades and has made an important contribution to maintaining stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region," Mr Abbott said yesterday.

"The changes announced by Prime Minister Abe on July 1 mean Japan will be able to make a greater contribution to regional peace and security and will be a stronger strategic partner for Australia."

Officially Australia says it takes no sides in the stand-off between China and Japan, but Beijing has made clear it believes the Abbott Government has been too strong in its support for Japan.

Late last year the Chinese embassy in Canberra warned Australia to keep out of East China Sea affairs after Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop registered concerns about Beijing establishing a so-called "air defence zone" over disputed islands.

As part of the visit to Australia, Mr Abe is likely to endorse US marines being based in Darwin and to lay out a road map for more war games with the US and Australia.

The West Australian

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