Howard said Australia had "a good relationship with China", adding: "I don't believe for a moment that this declaration is going to damage our relationship with China."
 
"I don't believe for a moment that this declaration is going to damage our relationship with China"

John Howard,
Australian PM
The Australian leader pointed out that "Japan is a democracy who shares many things with us that are special".
 
"Because of that I don't expect there will be any enduring sensitivities on the part of China, any more than there are any enduring sensitivities on the part of China in respect of our close alliance with the United States," he said.
 
Fu Ying, the former Chinese ambassador to Australia, had raised objections with Alexander Downer, the Australian foreign minister, about the agreement's lack of transparency several weeks ago, before leaving her post.
 
Downer was quoted as saying that he "explained to her that this wasn't directed at China".
 
South Korea has also reportedly expressed concerns over the pact.
 
Free trade talks
 
Besides security, Howard said he would bring up the sensitive issue of Japanese whaling and discuss a proposed free trade agreement.
 
Trade talks are set to begin on April 23.
 
Japan takes almost one-fifth of all Australian exports - almost as much as those to China and the US combined.
 
Abe, who has pledged to shake off the legacies of his country's World War II defeat, has repeatedly called for Japan to build a four-way alliance with fellow democracies Australia, India and the US.
 
Japan has frequent tension with neighbours China and South Korea due largely to the legacy of Tokyo's wartime past.