Australia wants to engage more with the Asia Pacific countries and will push for India and Japan to become permanent members in a reformed UN Security Council, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has said.
In an interview to Jim Middleton on ABC Television's Asia Pacific Focus programme, Smith said: "We need to be engaged much more in the UN and we also believe that UN should take much more of a central role in international affairs.
"We have a strong view that there should be, for example, Security Council reform of the UN, that the Security Council should reflect the modern world, which is why we've suggested for example that both India and Japan should become permanent members of a reformed UN Security Council."
In a major break from the decade-long former John Howard-led government's foreign policy approach, Smith said: "We very strongly believe that Australia needs to take much more of a multilateral approach."
Underlying his government's priorities, the minister said: "Our fundamental alliance relationship (is) with the US, our view (is) that we need to engage more in the UN and that UN needs to take a more central focus in international affairs, and thirdly our very strong view (is) that our engagement in the Asia Pacific has to be very robust."
The new Australian government would also like to "play a greater role on disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation issues and see much more activity in that internationally".
The Kevin Rudd-led Labour government has enthused a breath of fresh air in the foreign policy. Smith, in the past two weeks, has met some of Australia's most important allies, visiting the US and Japan and hosting the foreign ministers of China and Indonesia.
However, Smith made it clear to Japan and to the visiting Chinese foreign minister that Australia wants to proceed with the trilateral security dialogue between Japan, Australia and the US but it didn't want to take part in the one off, four-way dialogue between Australia, Japan, the US and India.
China had expressed its concern about the quadrilateral dialogue that included India and had seen it as an exercise to contain Beijing.
Smith said: "Since then we've seen a much more positive and constructive dialogue and relationship between China and Japan. And the trip by the Indian prime minister to Japan was also regarded as very, very successful, a point that the Indian prime-ministerial envoy made to me in Perth in the last month.
"So I think since then we've seen, as it was put to me in Japan for example, very much a thawing and a warming of relations between China and Japan and also an improved dialogue between India and China. And I think that's very encouraging, very positive and that's the sort of approach that Australia wants to see," Smith told ABC TV.