What is the Japanese Embassy in Canberra up to?

Feb 19, 2021

 Is it trying to stoke anti-China sentiment in Australia?

In a report by Andrew Tillett in the Australian Financial Review on 29 January the new Japanese Ambassador  to Australia Shingo Yamagami San said: “Japan is encouraging Australia to step up joint naval exercises in the East China Sea to help regional peace and stability amid increasing incursions by Chinese vessels and aircraft into Japanese territory.”

He raised Linda Reynold’s two recent visits in November 2020 to Japan regarding Japanese Self Defence Forces support to stepped-up Australian navy and airforce patrols in the East China Sea (see Aurelia George Mulgan’s article in the ANU East Asia Forum of Nov 6 2020).

This is a subject rarely covered in the Australian media, but it raises the question about what are Australian forces going to do along the Chinese coast in the East China Sea and in so-called “Taiwanese territory”? Surely it would be best for us to keep out!

Why is Ambassador Yamagami publicly promoting Australian naval activity on the Chinese coast?

Perhaps we have been doing this for a long time in coordination with the US without Japan’s SDF support, but operating very much under the radar.

Yamagami San added to his anti-China stance by saying that Japan “is willing to help Australia reduce its trade dependence on China”. How is Japan going to do that?

Yamagami  San also mentioned Chinese “use of trade as a weapon”. He instanced the so-called “ban” on rare earths against Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute in 2010, and that Japan took China to the WTO over this and won. But I recall that the Chinese rare earth export restrictions at that time  had nothing to do with the Senkaku Islands and was not aimed exclusively at Japan.

China imposed “temporary” export controls on its rare earths which affected all overseas markets including the US, Japan, South Korea and Europe. This action was driven by domestic complexities in the rare earth sector in China, including efforts to close down small illegal operations and consolidate small scale uneconomic mining operations. It also related to Chinese environmental concerns, and efforts to stamp out smuggling of rare earth exports. The WTO ultimately forced China to withdraw all controls placed on rare earth exports, and I understand China has complied with that order (once it put its own rare earth house in order).

Yamagumi San said that strengthening intelligence sharing with Australia, presumably joining the ‘Five Eyes’ alliance, was one of his priorities. Is that really on the agenda?

Shouldn’t such a sensitive matter as this be left to Ministers to publicly discuss?

I wonder what the Chinese Embassy in Canberra thinks of this behaviour by the Japanese Embassy? Or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for that matter?

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