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Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 03:49 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 03:49 | SYDNEY

Rudd doing the right thing on Japan

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17 March 2008 14:04

The Australian press (or at least, the small portion of it that reports on foreign policy) is today all atwitter about Jason Koutsoukis' scoop claiming Japanese 'fury' over Kevin Rudd's decision not to include Tokyo in his upcoming 17-day world tour. Koutsoukis cites only one anonymous source in his story, but I and other Lowy staff have heard similar sentiments from some Japanese interlocutors.

Still, I think it's promising to see the Government holding its ground on this one.  Rudd has defended his itinerary on the grounds that he will make time for the Japanese later: he plans to have talks with Prime Minister Fukuda when Rudd goes to Japan for the G8 summit, and there's a separate bilateral visit in the works as well. (I take Rudd at his word that the latter has been in the works since January and has not been dreamed up overnight as a response to this round of criticism.)

Those two visits should surely be enough. For Japanese officials to complain solely on the grounds that Japan is not part of Rudd's first big overseas trip suggests a 'jilted lover' mentality which ill befits such a mature bilateral relationship. The Government is right to ignore that kind of carping and make sure that the visits, when they do happen, are substantive.

One last thing. The Koutsoukis story has led to the revival of one myth that deserves to be put out to pasture: the Rudd Government did not 'kill' the quadrilateral dialogue with the US, Japan and India at the behest of China. As my colleague Rory Medcalf has noted, nobody was proposing a new round of that dialogue anyway.

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