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Australian PM postpones visits to India, Japan amid bushfire emergency

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has cancelled official trips to India and Japan that were scheduled for the second half of January as he battles a bushfire emergency at home.
Morrison said on Saturday he had spoken to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan's ambassador to Australia, Reiichiro Takahashi, seeking to reschedule the meetings so he could tackle the country's growing fire crisis.
"I should stress that both of those scheduled meetings are postponed and will move quickly to identify another opportunity," Morrison told reporters after announcing a big step-up in the military's role in rescue and relief efforts.
Morrison had been set to leave for India on Jan 12, followed by a trip to Japan, with talks due to focus on defense, intelligence and security and trade issues.
The decision to postpone the trips came after Morrison faced heavy criticism in December for taking off on a family holiday to Hawaii while fires raging across Australia since September continued to burn.
He cut the family trip short and apologized.
Bushfires have killed 23 people and destroyed more than 1,500 homes since September, Morrison confirmed.


© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020.
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