Five hours’ flying time winds clock back to the beginning – by Paul Garvey (The Australian – July 10, 2014)

THE economic growth of China in the past decade has generated tens of billions of dollars in profits for Australia’s mining companies, but it was all about Japan in the heart of the company’s Pilbara iron ore operations yesterday.

Shinzo Abe made a flying two-hour visit to the West Angelas mine in the remote pocket of Western Australia, following through on an invitation made by Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh in Tokyo last year.

The five-hour journey across the country from Canberra to the Pilbara left its mark on Mr Abe, giving him more time to talk with Tony Abbott.

“I was extremely impressed that I could take a five-hour flight and still be in Australia. I’m really amazed by how big this country is,” he said through an interpreter, addressing a gathering on the edge of the gaping West Angelas open-pit as huge trucks rumbled past hauling iron ore bound for Asia.

“The flight took twice as long as the summit meeting we had yesterday, but I actually believe that we had deeper discussions on the flight and we will really be able to deepen our relationship as well.”

Mr Abe’s visit to West Angelas — the largest of four Rio Tinto iron ore mines partly owned by Japanese corporations — was a reminder that, while China has driven iron ore demand in recent years, it was Japan’s support and investment almost 50 years ago that helped unlock Australia’s iron ore potential.

Mr Abbott said that the visit to the mine was a reminder of what Australian know-how could achieve in combination with ­Japanese capital and ­technology.

“It is fitting that the Prime Minister of Japan and the Prime Minister of Australia should be here together on this site, on this occasion, because almost nothing here in the Pilbara would have happened without the co-operation of Australia and Japan,” Mr Abbott said.

The trip to the Pilbara, followed by a reception dinner in Perth last night, capped a visit that saw Australia and Japan cement a trade deal that will ­expand two-way trade between the two nations that is already worth $70.8 billion a year.

There was no mention by ­either leader of China, which has been watching the visit closely.

China’s state-run news agency Xinhua ran an editorial this week that claimed Mr Abe was using Australia to “build a network against China”.

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