Just as PM Turnbull was in town to meet with his Japanese counterpart yesterday, I completed a piece for the Lowy Institute Interpreter. The final version is here.
This is the original version, mainly for my records, but you're welcome to read it too. I recalled a post I wrote back in June 2014 on the then 2+2 ministerial meeting. You'll find that here. The more things change...etc.
Abe returns to Tokyo then to walk almost straight into a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Turnbull, while not quite the first strategic move on the chess board for 2018, both prime ministers share a potentially tumultuous year ahead will perhaps seek a moment to confide in each other’s respective domestic domains as well as reaffirm strengthening, if not predictable, security cooperation. The meeting was foreshadowed on Christmas Day 2017, on the front page of the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun, something of a surprise for keen observers of the bilateral relationship. The Yomiuri, as a strong backer of Abe’s constitutional reforms, not surprisingly reported the forthcoming meeting as a strategic necessity, even citing the talks as signalling a ‘strengthening of a relationship with a partner considered a quasi-ally’. No doubt, both prime ministers will nod in furious agreement but it is not exactly the sort of thing that is going to spark the hearts and minds of a populace prepared to back the outlier story in a year of notable events. For that to happen, Japan and Australia will need to go beyond the military-security pretext and reinvigorate a once robust and multi-dimensional relationship.