Shinzo Abe arrives in Darwin for first visit by Japanese leader
Shinzo Abe joined Scott Morrison for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph War Memorial. (ABC News: Mitchell Abram)
Japanese leader Shinzo Abe has visited Darwin, honouring those killed during Japanese bombing of the city in World War II and thanking Territorians for welcoming him with “heartwarming hospitality”.
- Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “renewed his vow towards peace ” in Darwin
- The visit marks the first time a Japanese leader has visited the Top End capital
- Mr Abe and Australian PM Scott Morrison discussed closer military ties during the visit
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in the Top End capital on Friday for the historic two-day visit.
Before discussing closer military ties and strategic partnerships, Mr Abe and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison laid wreaths for those killed during the bombing of Darwin on February 19, 1942.
On that day, 76 years ago, at least 243 people were killed when Japanese forces launched air raids on Darwin.
Speaking through a translator later on Friday afternoon, Mr Abe acknowledged the efforts of those who helped the two nations reconcile.
“It is a great pleasure for me to be visiting Darwin for the first time as the Prime Minister of Japan,” he said.
“Darwin was once a place where the former Japanese forces conducted their first air bombing against Australia, leading to much sacrifice.
“Prime Minister Morrison and I laid a wreath at the war memorial. I extended my condolences in honour of all the fallen soldiers and renewed my vow towards peace.
“Thanks to the devoted efforts of many, Japan and Australia have achieved reconciliation and have become special strategic partners driving regional peace and prosperity.
“I thank the people of the Northern Territory for welcoming us with heart warming hospitality”.
The Australian PM said the ceremony was “incredibly moving”.
“He [Mr Abe] came here with great grace and great humility and as a great friend of Australia,” Mr Morrison said.
“We acknowledge our history and we commemorate our sacrifice and loss today.
“But importantly we have further strengthened our great relationship as good friends and great partners.”
Shinzo Abe also met with military personnel on his first day in Darwin. (Reuters: Rick Rycroft)
Meanwhile, Mr Abe’s wife Akie Abe joined Darwin High School students as they practised calligraphy on Friday afternoon.
“On your next study tour, contact me … we go to the Prime Minister’s house,” she told the students.
Before Mr Abe’s departure on Sunday, he will inspect a visiting Japanese coast guard vessel and lay a wreath at a memorial for a Japanese submarine.
Military ties strengthened
Mr Abe said he and Mr Morrison had agreed to deepen their defence and security ties, in response to rising tensions in the South China Sea.
“Darwin is the nexus that connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans and is a crucial place for the stability and the prosperity to the whole of the Indo Pacific,” he said.
Each leader mentioned North Korea and their joint commitment to seeing it rid of nuclear weapons.
Shinzo Abe said he and Scott Morrison spoke about strengthening defence and security ties between their two nations. (Reuters: Rick Rycroft)
On South-East Asia and Pacific Island nations, Mr Abe said they agreed to promoting their maritime security, creating better infrastructure and strengthening connectivity.
Mr Morrison thanked Mr Abe on his leadership in driving forward the TPP 11, a free trade agreement signed by 11 nations.
“We stand for democracy and we stand firm against protectionism,” he said.
“And our continued success depends on being open to trade and investment.”
Investment ‘helped create entire communities’
Mr Abe’s arrival coincided with the Japanese company Inpex’s official opening of its $55 billion Ichthys LNG plant in Darwin.
Both leaders referenced the project as they made a joint statement, ahead of the Inpex Gala Dinner on Friday night.
“Japanese investment in Australian resources and energy projects has helped create entire communities,” Mr Morrison said.
“And it supported tens of thousands of employees and inspired new technology and generated billions of dollars for our two economies.
“It is an outstanding example of the scale of our cooperation and of our ambition.”
Mr Abe said the project was “deeply symbolic” of the interdependency between the two countries.
He said Japan was ready to support more cooperation between the nations in the energy area.
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