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Japan's Abe declares peace goals in historic Australia visit

SYDNEY -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Tuesday declared his determination to pursue peace in Asia, as he strengthened defense ties with Australia and signed an ambitious free-trade agreement.

Abe used an historic address to a joint sitting of Australia's parliament to say that Japan “is now determined to do more to enhance peace in the region and peace in the world.”

“It is to put that determination into concrete action that Japan has chosen to strengthen its ties with Australia,” said Abe, the first Japanese leader to address parliament.

“Our countries both love peace. We value freedom and democracy and we hold human rights and the rule of law dear,” he added, calling the relationship “special.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Japan as “a very, very close friend.”

“Japan and Australia have so much in common and I am sure that our relationship will go from strength to strength as a result of this visit, and as a result of the annual leaders' meetings that will henceforth take place,” Abbott said.

The two leaders inked an agreement allowing for the transfer of Japanese defense equipment and technology to Australia, just days after Tokyo declared its powerful military had the right to fight in defense of allies.

The declaration irked China, Australia's largest trading partner, which has a fractious relationship with Japan including tensions over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Abe said his country's push to “change its legal basis for security” was so it could work with other nations and “build an international order that upholds the rule of law.”

“Our desire is to make Japan a country that is all the more willing to contribute to peace in the region and beyond,” he said in his address, which was delivered in English.

“It is for this reason that Japan has raised the banner of proactive contribution to peace.”

Abe at a press conference played down recent tensions with China, saying his door was always open for dialogue.

“The door to China is open from the Japanese side and we hope that the Chinese side takes the same posture,” he said.

He added that the “fundamental position of Japan is that we want to improve our relationship with China.”

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, shakes hands with Australia's opposition leader Bill Shorten at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, July 8. (AP)

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