Australian–Japanese relations are generally warm, substantial and driven by mutual interests, with both nations having close ties with the Western world. Japan is one of Australia's major economic partners: it is Australia's "largest trading partner and an increasingly important source of capital investment". In recent times the relations have expanded beyond strong economic and commercial links to other spheres, including culture, tourism, defense and scientific cooperation.
There has been some tensions in the relationship, such as World War II, whaling, and Japan's perceived economic domination (although such tensions have eased somewhat) in response to Japan's economic stagnation of the 1990s, and Australia's economic growth. However, Australian government and business leaders see Japan as a vital export market and an essential element in Australia's future growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan on its part regards Australia as an important partner, a reliable source of energy, minerals and other primary products, a popular tourist destination, a useful conduit to the West and the only other middle-ranking economic power in the Asia-Pacific. Australia's current Prime-Minister Tony Abbott recently hailed Japan as Australia's closest friend in Asia, and plans on creating a Free Trade Agreement between the two nations in the coming year.
Colonial and post-federation relations between Australia and the Empire of Japan
The first recorded import of Australian coal by Japan occurred in 1865, and the first recorded Japanese imports of Australian wool occurred in 1888. The first Japanese person known to have settled in Australia was a merchant who immigrated to Queensland in 1871. By the start of the Australian Federation in 1901, it was estimated that Australia had 4000 Japanese immigrants, mostly based around Townsville where the Japanese government had established its first consulate in 1896. The immigrants worked mostly in the sugar cane and maritime industries including turtle, trochus, trepang and pearl harvesting. Further immigration was effectively terminated with the Australian Immigration Restriction Act of 1902, with the imposition of a "dictation test" in a European language on prospective immigrants, and with the White Australia policy. Due to this the Townsville consulate closed in 1908.
In 1930–31, Japan was "Australia's third most important trading partner". However, economic relations continued to flourish, and by the mid-1930s, Japan had become Australia's second largest export market after the United Kingdom. However, in 1936, Britain applied political pressure on Australia to curb the import of Japanese textiles, which were damaging the British textile market in Australia. Japan reacted to the new tariffs with trade barriers of its own. After both sides realized that the trade war was unproductive, an agreement was reached in 1937 to relax restrictions.
In recognition of the importance of Japanese ties, Tokyo was the second capital (after Washington DC in the United States) where Australia established a legation separate from the British embassy.
During World War II, Australian territory was directly threatened by Japanese invasion, and Japanese forces attacked Darwin in Northern Australia and Sydney Harbour. In 1941, the ethnic Japanese population in Australia was interned, and most were deported to Japan at the end of the war. Australian forces played an active combat role in battles throughout the Southeast Asia and South West Pacific theater of World War II, and a significant role in the post-war Occupation of Japan.
During the Occupation period
The first time a large number of Australians were in Japan was during the postwar Occupation of Japan. Australians were part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. Around 16,000 Australians served in the force. For the entire length of its history the BCOF had an Australian officer. The Australian contribution to the force was 4,700 infantry, 5,300 base personnel, 2,200 from the Royal Australian Air Force, and 130 from the Australian General Hospital. The Royal Australian Navy was also present as part of the British Pacific Fleet. For two-thirds of the period of occupation the Commonwealth was represented solely by Australians.
Australia played a minor role in the Japan campaign in the last months of the war and was preparing to participate in the invasion of Japan at the time the war ended. Several Australian warships operated with the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) during the Battle of Okinawa and Australian destroyers later escorted British aircraft carriers and battleships during attacks on targets in the Japanese home islands. Despite its distance from Japan, Australia was the BPF's main base and a large number of facilities were built to support the fleet.
Australia's participation in the planned invasion of Japan would have involved elements of all three services fighting as part of Commonwealth forces. It was planned to form a new 10th Division from existing AIF personnel which would form part of the Commonwealth Corps with British, Canadian and New Zealand units. The corps' organisation was to be identical to that of a US Army corps, and it would have participated in the invasion of the Japanese home island of Honshū which was scheduled for March 1946. Australian ships would have operated with the BPF and US Pacific Fleet and two RAAF heavy bomber squadrons and a transport squadron were scheduled to be redeployed from Britain to Okinawa to join the strategic bombardment of Japan as part of Tiger Force.
General Blamey signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Australia during the ceremony held on board USS Missouri on 2 September 1945. Several RAN warships were among the Allied ships anchored in Tokyo Bay during the proceedings. Following the main ceremony on board Missouri, Japanese field commanders surrendered to Allied forces across the Pacific Theatre. Australian forces accepted the surrender of their Japanese opponents at ceremonies conducted at Morotai, several locations in Borneo, Timor, Wewak, Rabaul, Bougainville and Nauru.
Post-war diplomatic relations
Australia and Japan celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the 1976 Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in 2006. In a joint statement issued in March 2006, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso declared the "partnership" between Australia and Japan, based on "shared democratic values, mutual respect, deep friendship, and shared strategic views", to be "stronger than ever".
Australia and Japan have agreed to work together towards the reform of the United Nations, including the realisation of Japan's permanent membership of the Security Council, and to strengthen various regional forums, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the East Asia Summit (EAS).
- Law enforcement on combating transnational crime, including trafficking in illegal narcotics and precursors, people smuggling and trafficking, counterfeiting currency and arms smuggling
- Border security
- Disarmament and counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery
- Peace operations
- Exchange of strategic assessments and related information
- Maritime and aviation security
- Humanitarian relief operations, including disaster relief
- Contingency planning, including for pandemics
During the deployment of the Japan Self-Defense Forces on a humanitarian and reconstruction mission to Iraq from 2004 to 2006, Australian units assisted Japanese Special Forces in the protection of Japanese bases.
Diplomatic relations have come under pressure over ideological differences regarding Japan's scientific whaling program. In May 2010, Australia started legal action to halt Japanese whale hunts, despite senior Australian officials and bureaucrats expressing the opinion that the legal action would likely fail. Japan's repeated requests that Australia cease its support for Sea Shepherd's violent attacks upon its whaling fleet have been refused.
Economic relations, tourism and migration
Australian trade had shifted away from other Commonwealth countries toward Asia around the 1960s and 1970s. Japan in particular had emerged as the leading trading partner. In 1966–67, Japan surpassed the United Kingdom "to become the largest market for Australian exports". Japan is now the second largest export market for Australia (after China), although Japan is ranked only third as a source of imports to Australia after the United States and China. Because of this, Australia has had a trade surplus with Japan.
Australia is a predominant source of food and raw materials for Japan. In 1990 Australia accounted for 5.3 percent of total Japanese imports, a share that held relatively steady in the late 1980s. Australia was the largest single supplier of coal, iron ore, wool, and sugar to Japan in 1990. Australia is also a supplier of uranium. By 1988 Japanese investment made Australia the single largest source of Japanese regional imports. The ban on American and Canadian beef recently made Australia the largest supplier of beef in Japan.
Resource development projects in Australia attracted Japanese capital, as did trade protectionism by necessitating local production for the Australian market. Investments in Australia totaled US$8.1 billion in 1988, accounting for 4.4 percent of Japanese direct investment abroad. But, because of the broadening reach of Japan's foreign investment, this share had been declining, down from 5.9 percent in 1980. During the 1980s, Japanese real estate investment increased in Australia, particularly in the ocean resort area known as the Gold Coast, where Japanese presence was strong enough to create some resentment.
As Japan protects its agriculture, Australia faces quotas, high tariffs, and standards barriers in exporting agricultural products including beef, butter, and apples to Japan. Japan is "Australia's largest beef export market, taking almost 36% of all beef shipped in 2011".
Negotiations commenced in 2007 on a bilateral free trade agreement between Australia and Japan.
Both countries attract a considerable number of tourists from the other country, with Australia being a favourite diving and surfing spot and Japan famous for its culture, especially in Kyoto.
As Australia trades raw minerals to Japan for large amounts of earnings, while Japan trades technology such as televisions, computers and cars. Japan is one of the leading suppliers of a number of manufactured goods imported to Australia: Japan has been the principal source of cars and motorcycles being imported to Australia.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2006, 40,968 Australian people claimed Japanese ancestry. According the Australian Embassy, Tokyo, there are presently more than 9,000 Australian citizens resident in Japan; which makes Australians a significant minority in Japan, where the foreign population is only a small percentage of the total population.
Japan allows visa-free access to Australians, and Australia has reciprocated: Australia allows Japanese to apply for Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) immediate authorisation - visa-free access for up to 3 months.
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