Washington: US President Barack Obama plans three-way talks with Japan and Australia on the sidelines of the G20 this weekend, looking to shore up defence ties with key Asia-Pacific allies in a move sure to rile Beijing.
The American leader is to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australia`s Tony Abbott during his time in Brisbane, a senior administration official told AFP.
"The trilat is a new and unique way to leverage the capabilities of key Asian partners to improve our security posture in the region, for example on maritime security and missile defence, and to partner on global issues, including ISIL, Ukraine, Ebola," the official said.
"The rebalance is not just about shaping Asia but encouraging Asian partners to work with us to shape global order."
The prospect of a stronger tripartite alliance will stoke fears in Beijing that Japan, the United States and Australia are ganging up to limit China`s increasingly assertive expansion in the region.
China claims rights over Tokyo-administered islands in the East China Sea, with several other countries in the region also at loggerheads with Beijing over territorial disputes.
Beijing has repeatedly warned of what it says is the danger of Japan "remilitarising" under Abe, and regularly lambasts Tokyo for its apparent lack of repentance for past misdeeds during WWII.Abe signalled his eagerness to lift defence ties with Washington and Canberra in an opinion piece for the Australian Financial Review published Friday.
"As the United States is the most important ally for Japan and Australia, I am determined to expand trilateral cooperation between the three countries, to realise a peaceful, secure and prosperous future for the Asia-Pacific region," he wrote.
"I also hope that our countries will work closely together to support the resolution of global issues."
Japanese officials had no comment on the three-way meeting.
Abe, who in July became the first Japanese leader to address the Australian parliament, described Canberra as Tokyo`s "best friend".
The countries recently inked a deal on sharing defence technology and Australia is reportedly considering a multi-billion dollar deal to replace its submarine fleet with Japanese-designed vessels.
Australia and the United States have been closely allied for decades and the pair have formalised a deal to rotate up to 2,500 US Marines to the Northern Territory capital Darwin.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the time that it was not a move aimed at curbing Beijing, insisting "we welcome the rise of China as a global partner".
It was a message reinforced by Obama at last week`s APEC summit in Beijing, when he said that a "strong, cooperative relationship" with China was "at the heart of our pivot to Asia".
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will also be in Brisbane for the G20, recently said the Pacific "is broad enough to accommodate the development of both China and the United States".
He told the Financial Review that Beijing was ready to increase defence cooperation with Australia.
"The Chinese side stands ready to work with the Australian side to strengthen communication and coordination in international and regional mechanisms and deal with traditional and non-traditional security issues of all kinds to jointly safeguard and promote peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and beyond," he wrote.
Abbott has denied closer defence ties with Japan will damage Canberra`s relations with China, his country`s biggest trading partner.