Calibrated to take advantage of Japan’s rapidly changing political and security landscape Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s call this week for a deeper, closer strategic and defence partnership with Japan is a water shed moment in the bilateral relationship which promises to deliver significant benefits for both countries, although it won’t be risk free.

The culmination of 26 years of patient Australian diplomacy, dating back to former Chief of the Defence Force, General Peter Gration’s, ground-breaking first defence visit to Japan in 1989, Bishop has timed her initiative well. It dovetails neatly with the Abe government’s more outward looking security stance, a response to the burgeoning foreign policy and strategic challenges Japan confronts.

The recrudescence of historical animosities and rivalry with China is clearly driving Japan’s search for security beyond its established, and still vital, defence ties with the US. But the added stress of dealing with the quixotic, alpha male leaders of neighbouring Russia and North Korea, both of them nuclear armed states, has contributed to Abe’s security anxieties.

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