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Security and whaling on Rudd's Japan agenda -

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Security and whaling on Rudd's Japan agenda

The World Today - Monday, 9 June , 2008 13:10:00

Reporter: Shane Mcleod

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Kevin Rudd has a lot to pack in on his first visit as Prime Minister to Japan.

He's expected to discuss trade, regional security and Japan's controversial whaling program.

As well as Tokyo, he's visiting the cities of Hiroshima, Kyoto and Nagoya. The Australian
delegation is saving time by travelling on Japan's renowned bullet trains which can reach speeds of
up to 300 kilometres an hour.

I spoke earlier to north-Asia correspondent Shane McLeod who's been travelling with Prime Minister
Rudd.

SHANE MCLEOD: Kevin Rudd says this is about strengthening a relationship that is already
fundamentally strong. He wants to talk about regional security and cooperation on things like
disaster relief and also security issues in the Asia Pacific region.

Of course, Japan is Australia's largest export destination and he also wants to raise the progress
on talks on a free trade agreement which have been going on for some time.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: One of the first stops on the visit was Hiroshima where one of the two bombs was
dropped during World War II, the two atomic bombs. Why was this chosen?

SHANE MCLEOD: It appears that this ties in with a speech that Mr Rudd is going to give later today.
Now we are heading from Hiroshima to Kyoto. He'll be speaking at Kyoto University and we expect
that in that speech, which will broadly talk about Australia's foreign policy, we expect that Mr
Rudd will be talking about issues like nuclear proliferation there.

It's not clear exactly if that has a focus on a particular country but certainly he has flagged
previously Australia's interest on taking perhaps some sort of role in the Six-Party talks on North
Korea's nuclear programs. Perhaps Australia may have a role in that body in the future.

But also, he has taken quite a strong line against Iran. So, it may be an opportunity to tie the
dangers of nuclear proliferation to the devastation that Hiroshima suffered, which is quite
graphically demonstrated in this museum.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Let's have a listen to what the Prime Minister said at the Hiroshima shrine.

KEVIN RUDD: It's extraordinary to be in Hiroshima. Hiroshima should cause the world community to
resolve afresh that all human kind must exert their every effort for peace in this 21st Century,
that we the people of the Asia Pacific region should resolve afresh to make this Asia Pacific
century, a century of peace.

And for the world at large, that we should aspire now for a world free of nuclear weapons.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Hiroshima.

Shane McLeod, the next stop, the city of Kyoto, that's the city which gave its name to the
greenhouse treaty, is it possible there'll be some sort of greenhouse-related discussion or
announcement?

SHANE MCLEOD: We understand that Mr Rudd was very keen to speak in Kyoto because of that very fact.
So, yes, climate change policy is a very large part of what he sees as Australia's foreign policy
priority. So we expect that in covering that broad range of topics that greenhouse emissions and
future agreements on greenhouse gas emissions will be an important topic as well.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: In Australia, Kevin Rudd has been known as an activist prime minister, on the go
all the time, working very long hours. What sort of pace is he keeping up so far on this Japan
trip?

SHANE MCLEOD: Well, it's fairly ambitious trip in terms of the distances covered. As I mentioned,
he starts here in Hiroshima and then to Kyoto. Later in the week, he goes Nagoya where we expect
he'll catch up with senior officials at the car maker Toyota and then onto Tokyo.

So this end of the trip is quite fast-paced. There's some pretty tight deadlines to make sure we
meet all our transport connections. But later in the week, it might be a little less certain,
because Japan's in the midst of some fairly high-level political turmoil at the moment.

Later this week, the Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is likely to face a censure motion in the Upper
House of Parliament. It's not binding but it really will occupy political minds in Tokyo and I
understand that they have had trouble to lock-in some of the meetings that they hoped Mr Rudd would
be able to attend in Tokyo.

And it's still a little bit uncertain as to whether or not they'll be able to access ministers such
as the Defence Minister, for example, while they are in Tokyo.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: And why is the Japanese Prime Minister at a risk of a censure motion?

SHANE MCLEOD: This stems back nearly a year when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party lost control
of Parliament's Upper House and the Opposition now controls that and it's been using its numbers
there to essentially embarrass the Government at every opportunity it can.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: On the subject of embarrassment, the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was
probably embarrassed after it was shown that he was visiting other nations before Japan, when he
made his first overseas visit even though Japan's a major trading partner of Australia.

What are we likely to see as far as attempts to repair that situation?

SHANE MCLEOD: The fact that Kevin Rudd is here on a visit that spams five days, four nights, is
probably the first indication of that, and I think that's been very warmly welcomed by Japanese
officials. And second, that it is more than just Tokyo, he is getting out and seeing more of Japan
than perhaps a regular official visit would involve. He's here in Hiroshima, heads to Kyoto where
he'll see some very significant cultural sites.

But it is going to be a little difficult later in the week because you would imagine that some of
those issues have been thorns in the side in the relationship such as whaling, are going to be
raised and I can certainly say that some of the number of Japanese TV cameras that were following
the Prime Minster this morning, there is a degree of interest in what Mr Rudd has to say and I
suspect it's on that issue of whaling that they'll be asking some questions of him later in the
week.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Will much be resolved in whaling though or will both sides just stick to their
respective positions?

SHANE MCLEOD: The signs from Mr Rudd before he headed up here were that he sees a diplomatic
solution is the way to resolve this. The Opposition in Australia has pointed out that that's at
odds with the policy before the election, suggesting that the Government's policy back then was to
push for legal action against Japan.

The Foreign Minister's been up here twice this year and on both occasions has made the point that
Australia won't be doing anything like legal action before it talks to Japan. So that seems to have
taken some of the heat out of the issue.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: North-Asia correspondent Shane McLeod.