Prime Minister Tony Abbott gifted a photo album to Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which contains images of his grandfather, who made a trip to Australia as prime minister in 1957 — the year the two countries signed their first trade agreement.
That’s according to a News Corp Australia report, which has some incredible details about the night the significant, more recent agreement was finally brokered.
The thoughtful present was presented, over sake and beer, in Abe’s private guesthouse in Tokyo, where a trade liberalisation deal between the two countries was struck. In attendance from Australia were Abbott, his chief of staff Peta Credlin and adviser Andrew Shearer.
Abe’s maternal grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was PM when he and Robert Menzies signed the agreement in 1957. Kan Abe, his paternal grandfather, also served as a member of Japan’s House of Representatives from 1937 to 1946.
According to at least one official, it’s unprecedented for a visiting foreign dignitary to be hosted at a private diner ahead of an official state ceremony. The News report says Abe and Abbott also fed the fish in the imperial pond, which is a symbolic gesture.
“This will mean a lot to my mother,” Abe — who had never seen the photos of his grandfather — told Abbott, according to the report. In return, Abbott was presented with electronic bicycle gears made by Shimano, a company based in Abe’s prefecture. Abbott is a keen cyclist.
The 1957 deal was the first post-war agreement between the two countries, significant as it was a vote of confidence in Japan’s economic growth, and was a good step towards facilitating the increased diplomatic presence that grew alongside this boom, when the Second World War was still in recent memory.
The deal confirmed yesterday is significant for similar reasons. It strengthens relations between Japan and Australia, at a sensitive time for diplomacy in Asia.
China and Japan have been locked in a sustained period of sabre rattling over a set of disputed islands in the East China Sea, and Japan’s domestic politics have been going through a period of resurgent nationalism as it seeks to hold its own in the tussle.
There’s more on the dinner here.
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