Australia and Japan will hold formal talks on economic co-operation, regional security and nuclear non-proliferation in Sydney - but whaling won't be on the agenda.

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Sydney on Sunday morning as part of his first overseas trip since winning office on December 16 last year.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the visit, less than a month into the new government's term, demonstrated the importance of the two countries' relationship.

"Japan is the world's third-largest economy and a major contributor alongside Australia to issues including reducing nuclear stockpiles and restricting the international supply of weapons," Senator Carr said.

"Today's talks will include responses to issues such as North Korean rocket tests which endanger Japan, South Korea and the wider region."

Also on the agenda with Australia's second-largest trading partner on Sunday afternoon will be trade issues and the United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty to restrict the supply of rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition.

However, a spokesman for Senator Carr said whaling would not be discussed at the meeting as it was an issue for Environment Minister Tony Burke.

"Australia is resolutely opposed to commercial whaling, Japan is well aware of our views and we are taking legal action against Japan in the International Court of Justice," the spokesman said.

"It's not on the agenda for this meeting but we are actively pursuing anti-whaling action against japan.

"It's a point of strong disagreement but it won't involve personal tension between the two."

The issue of Japan's controversial whaling program once again reared its head last month when Japanese ships left port for the Southern Ocean as part of their annual hunt of the marine animals.

The fleet plans to hunt up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 fin whales through March, the Fisheries Agency has reported.

Both Australia and Japan have filed their detailed written arguments to the International Court of Justice and the case has been set down for oral hearing at The Hague, probably this year.

Australia-Japan two-way trade has more than doubled in the past decade to reach $75.6 billion in 2011-12.

Principal Australian exports to Japan are coal, iron, beef and copper, while major Japanese imports include passenger vehicles and engineering equipment.

 

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