Australia-Japan 2+2 Ministerial Consultations press conference
JULIE BISHOP: Good afternoon. Minister Payne and I are delighted to welcome to Sydney Japanese Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Kishida and Defence, Nakatani for the sixth 2-+-2 Foreign and Defence Ministers Meeting. Fumio and I mentioned last evening that this will be our 10th formal bilateral meeting since we have been foreign ministers of our respective countries, and of course, in addition we have met on numerous occasions at a number of meetings around the world, as recently as at the APEC meeting in the Philippines last week.
Prime Minister Turnbull and Prime Minister Abe have already had the first formal bilateral meeting between our two leaders at the G20 in Turkey and have met again in recent days at the APEC summit in Manila and are meeting today at the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur.
We have a special strategic partnership with Japan and as our meetings yesterday and today evidence we cooperate across the broadest possible spectrum of economic, defence and strategic ties and we have very close people to people links, nurtured through education, cultural, tourism and other ties. We are nations that hold common interests and we agree on the approach that should be taken to so many issues both regionally and globally. We are market economies committed to open and free trade and we are nations that share common values. We are both robust democracies committed to the freedom of our peoples, to the rule of law, to human rights and upholding democratic institutions.
This meeting takes place in the wake of the brutal terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris and now in Mali, and where there's a heightened security environment in Europe, particularly in Belgium. Australia and Japan stand united in our condemnation of these terrorist attacks and united in our determination to defeat terrorism and Islamic extremism, wherever it may occur. We noted Australia's significant contribution to military operations in Syria and Iraq and we both support the Vienna Process, to seek to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria so that there can be a single united front against ISIL, Daesh, and other terrorist organisations.
On the economic front we spoke of the progress in trade and investment since the free-trade agreement came into force in January this year, and both our nations were drivers of the successful conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These agreements ensure that our future economic prosperity is more assured for they will provide economic growth and job opportunities in both our countries.
We are natural partners across so many areas and today's meeting built on the political and strategic relationship that has reached an unprecedented level in recent times. We are increasing cooperation across a range of areas including in defence, which my colleague Marise Payne will speak about in a moment, but also in areas such as maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Australia specifically welcomes Japan's security legislation reform that has passed through the Japanese Diet and we welcome Japan making a greater contribution to international peace and security, particularly peacekeeping but also in the area of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief where we have worked so closely together in recent times, including in the Philippines.
We reiterated our position on the South China Sea. While Australia does not take sides in the various claims, we urge all claimants to settle any disputes pursuant to international law and in accordance with a rules-based international order. Australia and Japan both value the right of all nations to freedom of navigation and freedom of oversight.
We spoke again of the need to coordinate and align our approach when dealing with the threat posed by North Korea and the effort that will be required to prevent North Korea continuing its provocative behaviour in relation to nuclear tests and missile testing. We spoke about the importance of our relationship in the context of our respective relationship with the United States, our common ally and we welcome the rebalance of the United States, both through its security and defence focus but also the economic manifestation of the rebalance through the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We also spoke about the importance of other relationships that we both have with China, India, the Republic of Korea, the nations of ASEAN and the Pacific Island nations.
We concluded our meeting with the hope that Prime Minister Turnbull will be able to visit Tokyo shortly and with an assurance that this special strategic partnership, the special friendship that we have with Japan, will long endure.
MARISE PAYNE: Thank you very much, Julie, and to our friends and ministerial colleagues from Japan, thank you very much for the opportunity for a very productive and a very useful discussion today, it was a very valuable opportunity for me to join my first Australia-Japan two-plus-two and have a chance to pursue some of the key defence issues in our region. It was also very useful for me to meet again with Minister Nakatani following our initial meeting in Kuala Lumpur at the ASEAN Defence Ministers-Plus meeting at the beginning of this month where we had a very useful bilateral discussion and raised a number of issues there which we've pursued again today.
Some of you will have seen that Minister Bishop and I have had the opportunity to take the Ministers to visit HMAS Canberra today alongside at Garden Island. Having provided the ministers with a landing-deck view of Sydney from HMAS Canberra I think there was a universal agreement in the very impressive vessel and what it will be able to offer both the ADF and most particularly our region in the context for example of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. And Australia and Japan have a very long history of cooperation and engagement in those areas and peacekeeping operations, and I see that the Canberra and its sister ship, soon to be officially commissioned, NUSHIP Adelaide will also play a very important role in developing that.
We've had a very valuable discussion today on both regional and global defence matters, a number of which the Foreign Minister has alluded to. At the last meeting of the two-plus-two a number of new initiatives were agreed and were then progressed to a meeting with the Prime Ministers at the time. Similarly, this year we have continued that very useful and consistent approach to identifying and adopting initiatives that are important to both of us and as Minister Bishop said, we hope that we will see those taken forward to the meeting between Prime Minister Turnbull and Prime Minister Abe later this year.
I want to acknowledge the participation of Japan in the competitive evaluation process for our future submarines. One of the three contributing participants to that process, submissions of course will be provided to the Australian Government at the end of this month, and I would like to particularly thank Japan for their participation here today and acknowledge the Minister taking the opportunity to visit Adelaide as part of his visit to Australia this week and to familiarise himself with particular aspects of our Defence industry and the importance that this plays in the Australian context. Once those submissions are received, of course, we will commence the process of evaluation before recommendations are made to Government.
Before I pass back to Minister Bishop, let me say one other thing. Yesterday a number of our ADFA cadets were involved in a serious bus accident near Goulburn in the southern Tablelands of New South Wales. This is my first opportunity to place on the record in a public context my thoughts. Our thoughts are with those injured and with their families. We know they are receiving the best possible care and I also acknowledge the efforts of ADFA, their staff and the ADF staff in supporting the students through what has been a particularly traumatic experience for many of them and acknowledge the New South Wales police and emergency services too in the efforts they made in an isolated part of New South Wales at a very difficult time. Thank you.
JULIE BISHOP: I'll ask Foreign Minister Kishida to speak on behalf of Japan, and then Defence Minister Nakatani.
FUMIO KISHIDA: [Speaks Japanese]
TRANSLATOR: I am delighted to visit this beautiful city of Sydney once again together with Minister Nakatani to meet with Foreign Minister Bishop and Defence Minister Payne for the Japan/Australia Foreign and Defence Minister consultations.
Japan and Australia enjoy a special relationship encompassing broad areas of cooperation sharing basic values and strategic interests. The four of us were able to conduct fruitful discussion on how to strengthen cooperation in the areas of security and defence. I sincerely thank Minister Bishop and Minister Payne and all those involved on the Australian side, our host, for their generous hospitality. Our partnership is the linchpin of the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific. Bolstered Japan/Australia cooperation is vital not only for our two nations but also for the international society. During our consultations today we exchanged views covering wide area of promoting security and defence cooperation including the newly enacted legislation for peace and security of Japan. We resolutely condemn the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
Japan explained our plan to hold an international conference on violent radicalism next year. The two governments agreed to further reinforce our work joining hands to counter acts of terror. During the working lunch regional developments in the Asia Pacific and others, as well as how to work closely in the Pacific, were discussed. Japan and Australia shared strong concern on unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas an agreed to work in a coordinated manner to preserve international maritime order based on rule of law. Moreover, we have affirmed the importance of trilateral collaboration with our common allies and partners such as the United States and India. I am pleased that a substantial joint communique has been put forth as the outcome of our consultation. As the strategic environment surrounding Asia Pacific is constantly evolving, Japan/Australia partnership is thus ever so important to further strengthen our special relationship. I and Minister Nakatani are looking forward to continue to work closely with Minister Bishop and Minister Payne. That's all from me.
GEN NAKATANI: [Speaks Japanese]
TRANSLATOR: Thank you very much. Gen Nakatani, Minister of Defence for Japan. With Minister Payne at the ADMM-Plus earlier this month we had the first ministerial in Malaysia. And once again I'm very pleased I'm in Australia and I had a chance to visit with Adelaide I'm here in Sydney today and I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation for your warm welcome, and I could feel the special relationship between our two nations and profound friendship between the two countries. I am a captain of the Diamonds parliamentarian rugby club so I'm a rugby fan and I would like to thank Eddie Jones, the coach and rugby players from Australia which they have all contributed to making our team very strong.
Now today I participated in the sixth Japan Australia 2+2 and with Minister Payne and Minister Bishop we had a very fruitful discussions and I'm very pleased that we were given this opportunity. During our consultations, we exchanged views and we explained the new peace and security legislation of Japan and we exchanged views and agreed on specific measures to promote our cooperation in many areas in order to further solidify cooperation between SDF, Self Defence Forces and ADF. I'm very happy that we came to a consensus.
With respect to Japan/Australia submarine cooperation - our cooperation in the field of submarine, I made such points as strategic importance of Japan/Australia submarine cooperation, how Japanese technologies are excellent and reliable and Japanese Air Force to maximise participation by Australian companies in this program. I have assured my Australian colleagues that Japan will make the best proposal. For regional situations, we share serious concerns over the large-scale reclamation activities in the South China Sea. At the same time we both believe in the importance of rule of law before the international community including freedom of navigation and overflight in the high seas.
We reached an agreement that it is strategically important to convey messages and to raise uniform voice in order to ensure peace and stability in this region. Japan/Australia defence cooperation is one of the essential base foundations for the regional peace and stability and I'm blessed that I will be able to work closely with my wonderful and able colleagues with whom I had a pleasure of exchanging views. Thank you.
COMPERE: Thank you; there will be two questions, two from the Australian media and two from the Japanese media. The first will be from The Australian's Brendan Nicholson.
JOURNALIST: Good afternoon, ministers. Brendan Nicholson from The Australian newspaper. We see an escalation in the South China Sea in recent months, a situation which appears to be extremely difficult. Could the Japanese ministers please explain how serious you think the situation in the South China Sea is, what a broader strategic relationship with Australia might mean for that situation and where the submarine project fits into that scenario in terms of the broader strategic relationship? And can I please ask the Australian ministers if there's any particular thing in the communique that's coming out shortly that you might be able to give us some detail?
FUMIO KISHIDA: [Speaks Japanese]
TRANSLATOR: Yes, I would like to first of all comment on the question on the South China Sea. China is increasing its activities on the maritime area in the surrounding seas of China. I believe that this is a shared concern for Japan as well as the region and the international community and in the two-plus-two meeting we have agreed to strongly oppose any coercive or unilateral actions that could alter the status quo in the South China Sea and call on all claimants to halt large-scale land reclamation instruction and use for military purposes. As for the current status, we will continue to ensure the rule of law and freedom of navigation, the international community must work in a united manner to ensure this, based upon international law, we need to seek peaceful solution and importance of that should be sent out as a message for the whole international society.
Now as to the current status, how serious is it as to our recognition? I believe that was the point of your question. For the current situation, to accommodate or condone the current situation is something we cannot accept because what has already happened and acted on cannot be accepted and based upon that position in order to bring solution to these issues we should make our assertions based upon international law so that unilateral actions should be refrained from and to seek peaceful solution should be always our position and we should always ask other claimants to maintain these principles and we need to ensure the rule of law and freedom of navigation with the whole of the international community working together.
GEN NAKATANI: [Speaks Japanese]
TRANSLATION: First of all with the South China Sea, as we speak the Chinese reclamation activities and the construction of ports and airfields continue as we speak. For Japan, freedom of navigation and securing of safety of sea-lanes in South China Sea is of great importance and open and free and peaceful operations should be ensured through cooperation of the international community.
For submarines, this is of strategic importance for Japan and Australia. On this point both of our nations are maritime nations, we have key interest in freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight in the high seas and these will have to be ensured and international law should be followed and use of force should never be condoned. So this is not just about cooperation in the field of submarines but this, I believe, is something fundamental for the maritime security for both of our nations therefore in view of the strategic importance to Japan I'm more than willing to - Japan would like to promote cooperation with Australia and we want to explain the real ability and excellence of the Japanese technologies, and I had a chance to visit Adelaide before my visit to Sydney and I've had a chance to see the potential capability of Australian shipyard. We would very much like to make efforts to maximise the participation of Australian companies and I'm very much confident that the Japanese proposals will be best proposal possible and that is exactly what I tried to communicate to my colleagues.
JULIE BISHOP: As I've said previously, Australia has a legitimate interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, the respect for international law, unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea because two thirds of our trade passes through the South China Sea. We have a very deep national interest in maintaining peace and stability in that region. We don't take sides on the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea but we have acknowledged that land reclamation and construction activity that's undertaken by China and other claimants raises tensions in the region and we're particularly concerned at the prospect of militarisation of artificial islands and structures. We note President Xi's statement that China does not intend to militarise but we call on claimant states to halt land reclamation, construction and any attempts at militarisation. All states have a right under international law to freedom of navigation and overflight, including in the South China Sea. Australian vessels and planes will continue to exercise these rights in accordance with international law and all nations should respect our right to do so.
We call on governments to clarify and pursue their territorial claims and any maritime rights and resolve their disputes peacefully in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We support the right of all states to seek to resolve disputes peacefully including through arbitration as the Philippines have done in relation to the dispute that they have with China over certain islands. We are also encouraging practical implementation of commitments that have been given, including a Declaration of Conduct of the parties that was made some time ago in the South China Sea and also urge China and the ASEAN nations to make progress on a substantive Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.
MARISE PAYNE: In addition to the observations already made in relation to the South China Sea, and from a specific defence perspective, I think we made very significant progress yesterday in my meeting with Minister Nakatani and today in the two-plus-two in enhancing our deepening our bilateral defence cooperation. That's obviously a priority for both of our countries. And you asked, in relation to the communique, the key recommendations that we are going to canvass in that process include enhancing our training and exercising together, increasing personnel exchanges which has actually been a very effective way of embedding staff from both sides, not necessarily military either but also from officials levels within each other's administrations to enhance that understanding and that engagement between the two countries, deepening our cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, looking at maritime security, at peacekeeping which is a long-standing engagement of ours together, and looking at greater working capacity building and also in enhancing the trilateral defence cooperation with the United States.
One example I would give you of the mechanisms by which we've been doing constructive work in that regard is the ASEAN Defence Ministers-Plus arrangement, which, as I referred to earlier, met in KL earlier this year. It has six extant working groups in which all the participants operate. We co-chair the counter-terrorism working group, for example, with Singapore. Japan co-chairs the experts working group on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief with Laos, the new chair of the group. What we've been able to do in that regard, and just as an early example in 2016, is engage in a combined maritime security and counter-terrorism exercise in Singapore and Brunei in May of next year. So they are continuing, very practical engagements right across the region that help us really deepen those bilateral and multilateral relations and mean that when we have to come to an area of a harder discussion perhaps, we have a degree of familiarity, we have a degree of contact, we understand each other, we understand how we work and I think both Minister Nakatani and I would very much reinforce the value of that.
TRANSLATOR: Now we would like to accept questions from the Japanese press.
JOURNALIST: I have a question to Minister Kishida. Minister Kishida, you have explained earlier that Japan/Australia, to work together is ever more important for the region as well as for the international community as well. In the joint communique further issues of South China Sea as well as the Pacific strategy to be formulated and for reciprocal access agreement in the security area. Now all these issues that were included for the cooperation in all these areas, what may be the significance for the bilateral cooperation going forward, especially from the perspective of how to strengthen the Japan US relationship as well as China's advancement into the seas, please?
FUMIO KISHIDA: [Speaks Japanese]
TRANSLATOR: For the Japan Australia/partnership, as I have said is the linchpin for peace and stability for Asia Pacific and reinforcement of Japan/Australia cooperation is something indispensable for not only our two nations but for the international community as a whole. In the 2+2 meeting we had at this time, for example, for South China Sea the unilateral change of status quo that both of us have opposed to such moves and for large scale land reclamation construction and use for military purposes we have called to the halt of these moves and for the rule of law, as well as freedom of navigation in order to ensure these, we have agreed that Japan and Australia will work in partnership. As for these matters for Australia and Japan to work together is something very important.
For example, for the Japan/US relationship, for the network, for peace and prosperity with the Japan and US relationship as a cornerstone, I believe Japan/Australia partnership will be conducive for those efforts as well and from that point in view, the Japan/Australia two-plus-two meeting is quite relevant and important in Japan/Australia cooperation is something vital and precious. Japan/Australia and furthermore, Japan, United States and Australia, the trilateral partnership, should also be further strengthened. I have once again felt the importance of this so we were able to have very fruitful discussion at this round.
COMPERE: The next question is from Rena Sarumpaet at SBS.
JOURNALIST: Thank you. Rena Sarumpaet from SBS. There are reports that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said to Barack Obama a few days ago that Japan may consider joining naval patrols in the South China Sea, can you clarify were those reports correct? So was it a serious offer given China already expressed concern about that and secondly I think there was just mention about Australia and Japan hosting an international conference; is it on radicalisation next year? Was there discussion today and in what way can Australia and Japan cooperate further in terms of terrorism measures?
FUMIO KISHIDA: [Speaks Japanese]
TRANSLATOR: The South China Sea, which the international community must work in concert to respond to the situation. Now, for the United States conducting operation to ensure the freedom of navigation, this is strictly based on international law and such international endeavours as leading the way Japan is supporting the United States in this regard. As for Japan, is there a possibility for Japan taking action on the operation as conducted by the United States, nothing has been decided yet. No decision has been taken yet. On South China Sea issue we have been involved in providing official development aid as well as conducting capacity building assistance to the nations in the region so going forward Japan will continue such assistance and efforts going forward.
What was the other point? Yes, yes. Our fight with acts of terror. On counter-terrorism what kind of possible cooperation can be envisaged? On the counter-terrorism measures every country is taking border measures and in order to secure a safety and security they are stepping up their efforts and also to try to provide capacity building, training for border control in the region of Middle East and North Africa, we would be able to make efforts on this and underlying the acts of terror is the fundamental question of poverty and other issues. So for Middle East and North Africa to try to encourage them to create and preserve more direct forces in the society we will be providing humanitarian assistance and that, I think, is very important. So Japan will continue assistance in this regard. We have always doing so but we will continue such efforts. The important thing is all the relevant parties should make efforts vis-a-vis counter-terrorism to contribute in their own way in the areas of their own strength and Japan has a strength in contributing to the counter-terrorism and Australian strength in terms of counter-terrorism should be firmly combined, we should work in close partnership combining the strengths of both our nations so that international society as a whole and for Japan and Australia to work closely we will be able to make great contribution for counter-terrorism.
GEN NAKATANI: [Speaks Japanese]
TRANSLATOR: With regard to SDF activities in South China Sea, in the past we have been contributing capacity building to countries facing South China Sea and maritime self-defence force and US Navy have conducted joint exercises and joint training and we have been actively trying to contribute to the stability in the region. As far as we're concerned there is no plan to be a part of the freedom of navigation operation by the United States and at the same time we have no plan, specific plan to continue surveillance and intelligence activities. The South China Sea situation we will closely watch how the situation in the South China Sea situation which could have implications on Japan and we will try to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight. When we will look at every possible option and this stance has been the answer of the Prime Minister during the Diet sessions and this is nothing new. At the US/Japan summit I believe Prime Minister Abe conveyed his stance to President Obama.
COMPERE: So this will be the last question from the Japanese press.
JOURNALIST: [Speaks Japanese]
TRANSLATOR: I have this question to the Minister Nakatani and Minister Payne on the potential joint development of future submarines. In confidence into France and Germany, what are the competitive advantage of the Japanese proposal. Japanese technologies? This plan could have strategic importance in Asia Pacific and how will this contribute in enhancing relationship between Japan and Australia and this following question for Minister Payne. Let's assume that Japan was chosen, what will be the strategic importance of this and how will this contribute in the promotion of bilateral relations?
GEN NAKATANI: [Speaks Japanese]
TRANSLATOR: There are three strengths to the Japanese proposal. One, Japan, Australia and the United States strategic cooperation will be the result of this potential cooperation. Second, Japan is the only country which builds and operates conventional submarines in excess of 400 tonnes with blue water capabilities and we are capable of making proposals utilising the world-class technology while minimising the risks for the next 100 years Japan has a plan to build and operate conventional submarines for the next 100 years therefore we can make a significant contribution to cooperate for many years to come in ensuring construction of submarines in Australia and this has strategic importance, significant strategic importance and this is not just about transfer of defence equipment and technologies but this will lead to operational cooperation between Japan and Australia and amongst Japan and Australia and the United States which I believe will contribute in ensuring freedom navigation in Asia Pacific. Second, future submarines, so in combat system which is developed jointly by Australia and the United States and if and when Japan were to be chosen as a partner, Australia in future submarines will be a model for strategic cooperation between Australia, United States and Japan. Thirdly, not just in the field of cooperation in the field of submarines, this could lead to further economic cooperation supply chain and high level of cooperation and innovation by using the Australian technology will be a positive result.
MARISE PAYNE: Thank you very much for the question. It may be perhaps slightly pre-emptive for any presumptions to be made in relation to the result of the competitive evaluation process. It's called a process for a reason and we are, of course, awaiting submissions from the three bids from Japan, Germany and France by the end of this month. So no assessment has obviously yet been made by that and I want to reinforce, as I said earlier, my acknowledgment and thanks to Japan and to all of participants but here today to Japan for their preparedness to engage in the competitive evaluation process and the contribution they are making to that. That doesn't, however, stop me from talking about the very significant strategic importance of the Australia/Japan relationship and our cooperation more generally speaking. I think both Minister Bishop and I have acknowledged that Japan is a key partner for Australia and in my case a key defence partner. We have similar values. We have shared strategic interests. We have a common alliance with the United States and a significant proportion of our discussions today was devoted to talking about enhancing that defence cooperation with growing engagement between the Australian Defence Force and the Japan self-defence forces.
That, of course, is made possible by the very important legislative changes which took place in Japan some short time ago now and thanks to Minister Nakatani and Prime Minister Abe for their efforts also in that regard. As a member of the Senate in Australia I'm only too acutely aware of how difficult it can be to get legislation through the parliamentary process from time to time. So I commend them on that very much. So today is a very key example of that depth of cooperation and the depth of the strategic relationship that we have. We've been able to review against progress the initiatives that were agreed by our respective prime ministers in July 2014 and set a work agenda for the coming year, a very dynamic and very constructive work agenda at that. However, I return to where I began. That is separate to the competitive evaluation process which is under way now. I appreciate your interest, of course, in that as a matter and the Minister may care to recruit you as an advocate for the Japanese bid team. But in closing, let me say this has been an extremely valuable exchange. I look forward to meeting again soon with Minister Nakatani and to progress in that even further.