Address to National Press Club, Japan

  • Speech, check against delivery


Thank you Mr Bando for your kind introduction, and also to Mr Habu, the Secretary General of the Japan National Press Club, for welcoming me here today.

It is an honour to address your National Press Club, and I'm pleased to be back in Japan among so many friends. Indeed, Fumio Kishida and I noted last night this is my fifth visit to Japan since I became Foreign Minister in September 2013 and our eleventh formal meeting that we have held in various places around the world including Tokyo, Sydney and elsewhere.

Ladies and gentlemen, we live in the world's most dynamic region.

Over the past few decades, much of Asia has undergone a rapid and remarkable economic transformation that has turned the region into the world's pre-eminent economic powerhouse.In the process, the pace, intensity and volume of interaction within our region – from transport and communications networks, travel and tourism, finance and supply chains, schools and universities, artistic and intellectual collaborations – have all grown dramatically.

As open, export-oriented market economies with huge depths of creative and innovative talent, Australia and Japan are perfectly positioned to build greater prosperity in the years ahead.

However at the same time as we seek to maximise economic opportunities, we mustn't lose sight of the profound transformation that has also taken place in the regional strategic environment – a transformation that has some way to go.

Today, I will talk about what the changing strategic environment means for Australia and Japan and set out why it's in our shared interests to face these strategic challenges together.

Enduring Principles

The world is changing.

The Indo Pacific is in a state of transition to a more multipolar strategic environment.

We therefore cannot take for granted the stability and prosperity we have enjoyed for decades.

The stability underwritten by the United States and the institutions and rules-based order put in place in the post-Second World War period cannot be guaranteed in perpetuity.

We are dealing with a significantly changed regional security environment that is contending with dramatic increases in military spending, the pressures of nationalism, and rising tensions over competing territorial claims.

North Korea's recent ballistic missile launch, which so closely followed its fourth nuclear test, has aggravated the already fraught situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Old territorial disputes have taken on a new salience with the rise of new powers and increased geopolitical contestability.

Cyber security issues and more globalised forms of terrorism present other new and alarming challenges.

In this environment, we have welcomed the US rebalance to Asia, and the increased US presence and its strategic reassurances of its commitments to our region.

The TPP, which for the US represents an economic manifestation of the rebalance, also marks an important milestone.

This week President Barack Obama is hosting ASEAN leaders in California – the first time the US has hosted ASEAN leaders for a stand-alone summit.

The importance of sustained US engagement in the region cannot be overstated.

Not only has the US provision of a security guarantee in this region underwritten peace and security for 70 years, it has also been fundamental to the spectacular economic growth the majority of the region has enjoyed in recent decades.

The United States will remain no less vital to regional stability and prosperity in the decades to come.In this environment, Australia also welcomes the emergence, or re-emergence, of China as a driver of economic growth and prosperity.

China has every right to enjoy greater strategic influence consistent with its economic weight.

However, China should act in a way that contributes to regional and global stability.

This is China's declared intention, and we therefore expect that China's actions will be calibrated to achieve that outcome.

Given its greater economic and strategic weight, its constructive engagement is indispensable to solving global challenges.

On climate change, for example, China has played an increasingly positive role, including through its participation in the Paris climate change conference last December.

We are working with China in areas of common interest, including through the G20 and the East Asia Summit.

Regardless of shifting economic and strategic weight, it remains an enduring fact that Australia's interests and those of our friends and allies are best served by a strategic order in our region which favours free societies, open economies, and a fundamental respect for the rule of law.

The extent to which we all work to uphold the global rules of the road agreed after World War II will affect our collective futures.

While we take no position on competing claims in the South China Sea, Australia's commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight consistent with international law is unshakeable.

So too is our conviction that disputes must be resolved peacefully, in accordance with international law, without coercion or intimidation.

Regional Leadership

We believe that a changing strategic landscape requires new ways of cooperation.

The special strategic partnership between Japan and Australia can be a model.

Through consistent and constructive leadership and cooperation, Japan has overcome adversity and helped rebuild a world order that values peace, stability and prosperity.

Japan has been an exemplary contributor to regional peace and stability for almost seven decades.

In the wake of Japan's remarkable economic transformation in the decades after World War II, Japanese investment made an enormous contribution to the economic development of our region.

Japan has also provided significant international humanitarian and disaster relief for the benefit of the region and beyond over the last thirty years.

For example, Japan has made an extraordinary contribution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Iraq and the wider Middle East.

On 4 February, at the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference in London, Japan pledged US$350 million on top of its earlier commitments of US$1.2 billion in humanitarian support.

Japan is one of the top three contributors to the UN budget and, like Australia, sends peacekeepers to some of the world's most troubled and dangerous places.

Japan has deployed more than 10,000 personnel to 27 peace-keeping operations around the world.

Last month, Japan commenced a two-year term on the UN Security Council, and is already making a significant contribution to the deliberations on North Korea and other issues before the Council.

Australia is a strong supporter of Japanese permanent membership of the UN Security Council in the context of broader Security Council reform.

Japan is a world leader on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

The Non-Proliferation Disarmament Initiative, which Japan and Australia co-founded in 2010, has helped strengthen a global regime that is crucial in stemming the spread of nuclear weapons.

Japan's work on the entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, or CTBT, is more critical than ever in light of North Korea's recent provocations.

Our successful co-sponsorship last year of UN General Assembly resolutions on the CTBT and on actions towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons further highlights our close cooperation on disarmament issues.

More fundamentally, the Japan-US security alliance has been, and remains, a cornerstone of the security and stability of our region, as has the ANZUS Alliance between Australia and the United States.

We have strongly supported the strengthening of the US-Japan alliance through the adoption of the new defence guidelines last year.

Together with Japan's new security legislation, the new guidelines send a powerful message that Japan is prepared to make a greater contribution to international peace and security.

It will of course be a matter for Japan – through its democratic system - to determine how that contribution will manifest.

This could include an expanded role in UN peacekeeping operations, more comprehensive joint exercises with its partners, logistical support, or cooperation in new security realms such as cyber space.

In a more multipolar strategic environment, this is a vital and necessary complement to the United States' rebalance to Asia.

In this context, the value of closer trilateral Australia-Japan-United States cooperation has never been greater.

Australia and Japan

Australia has publicly affirmed its support for Japan playing a strategic leadership role in the region commensurate with its economic strength.

We are well placed to work together, and trilaterally with the United States, to achieve our common aims: the maintenance of global stability and prosperity; and the defence of our common values in times of uncertainty.

Historically we have shown how former enemies can reconcile and how people-to-people and economic links can blossom into a broad and deep friendship.

In 1957, then Prime Ministers Kishi and Menzies saw a future for Japan and Australia, based on the national interests of both our countries that many at the time could not imagine.

The signing of the Agreement on Commerce a mere twelve years after the end of World War II laid the foundation for our long and prosperous partnership and showed vision and leadership.

Today, our Special Strategic Partnership, agreed in 2014, reflects our shared conviction that together we can contribute more effectively to regional peace and stability.

Ours is a natural partnership, one based on decades of friendship, common values and the congruence of our economic and strategic interests.

Since signing the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2007 there has been excellent progress in elevating our bilateral security and defence relationship.

The Australian Defence Force, for example, is currently deployed with the Japan Self Defence Force in South Sudan.

We have also finalised agreements covering defence logistics, sharing classified information, and greater defence science, technology and materiel cooperation.

Japan is one of three bidders aiming to partner with Australia to build Australia's new submarine fleet.

In a time of strategic uncertainty, we must consider what more we can do.

The passage of Japan's Legislation for Peace and Security means that Japan is now able to exercise in a limited way its UN Charter right of collective self-defence.

This will create even more opportunities for practical defence cooperation.

I am particularly keen to further enhance our defence training and joint exercises and – over the longer term - achieve an even higher level of interoperability in the fields of peace keeping operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Japan has one of the world's most capable defence forces. Australia and Japan operate some of the same platforms, such as the C-130 aircraft and Bushmaster vehicles.

We are introducing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Additionally, both countries are prioritising the development of an amphibious capability, and our working together to enhance maritime security.

On newer issues that we face as a region – counter-terrorism, space and cyber security, piracy and maritime security – Australia will continue to deepen our cooperation with Japan.

In 2015 Australian Navy personnel worked in support of the first Japanese commander of the multi-national task force responsible for countering piracy in the Gulf region.

Australia and Japan held an inaugural cyber policy dialogue in February 2015.

We agreed then to strengthen cooperation in areas such as combatting cyber crime, strengthening cyber security, enhancing critical infrastructure protection and developing new international norms to govern behaviour in cyber space.

Regional Relationships

Japan and Australia both recognise the importance of our friends and partners in the region.

In the Pacific, Australia and Japan are partners in supporting economic prosperity and stability for Pacific Island Countries.

Foreign Minister Kishida and I have announced that we had agreed on a Pacific Strategy to take forward this cooperation.

The Pacific is a priority for Australia, and we are pleased to strengthen our cooperation with Japan in development, diplomacy and defence.

It is also critical for regional stability that the Indo-Pacific region develops effective institutions to deal with its strategic challenges.

Japan was a key actor in the establishment of APEC in 1989 – an organisation that remains critical to the integration of regional economies.

Australia and Japan believe the East Asia Summit – as a leaders'-led forum with the right membership and wide-ranging mandate – has the most potential of all the region's institutions to promote regional stability and prosperity.

However, institution-building is a slow process.

We need to continue to invest in the EAS to ensure is the accepted forum for dealing in a substantive way with the region's security challenges.

In North Asia, Australia commends the leadership and foresight of the governments of Japan and the Republic of Korea in pursuing reconciliation, including the announcement on 29 December regarding comfort women.

Japan and Korea – two vibrant democracies – are working more closely together on security issues, including in the aftermath of North Korea's recent provocations.

We also believe greater engagement between Japan, China, and Korea will increase regional stability.Australia will continue to do and say all we can to encourage Northeast Asian countries to resolve their differences cooperatively.

We understand there are sensitivities based on history, but we hope regional leaders will continue to make progress in resolving or managing these issues.


Ladies and gentlemen, Australia and Japan have a long history of working together on the most pressing issues our region faces.

Today, this cooperation is even more important, and our bilateral relationship has reached unprecedented heights.

In an increasingly globalised world, tensions will inevitably escalate from time to time as we navigate shifting strategic and economic influences.

That is particularly true in a region as diverse and vast as ours.

I am convinced Australia and Japan – as outward-looking, energetic, innovative democracies, and as friends and partners – are well-placed to address the challenges and seize the opportunities to build a more stable, prosperous region.

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