Joint press conference 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers

  • Transcript, E&OE

MODERATOR: We would like to begin the press conference with Foreign Minister Kishida, Defence Minister Onodera, Foreign Minister Bishop and Defence Minister Johnston. Each of the Ministers will make a short opening statement to be then followed by a Q&A session. At the Q&A session, owing to time constraints, we will ask the Japanese press and the foreign press, in that order, to ask just one question each. Foreign Minister Kishida, please take the floor.

FOREIGN MINISTER KISHIDA: Today with Defence Minister Onodera, and Foreign Minister Bishop and Defence Minister Johnston of Australia we held the 5th Japan-Australia Foreign and Defence Ministers' Meeting. The most recent foreign and defence ministers' meeting took place in December 2012. Today's 2+2 meeting was the first since the Abe-Abbott governments were formed and the first 2+2 meeting held from the perspective of elevating Japan-Australia security cooperation to the level of a special relationship. We held a frank exchange of views and achieved a large number of results.

First, at the recent leaders' summit meeting it was decided to commence negotiations on, and substantial conclusion was reached with regard to, an agreement on the transfer of defence equipment and technology. This included issues like compulsory prior consent for third-party country transfers and extra-purpose uses and so on. This makes possible the transfer of defence equipment technology between Japan and Australia. Work will continue to move this forward toward signing the agreement.

We also held discussions regarding recommendations to enhance practical bilateral defence cooperation, which our leaders at the summit also asked us to develop. We will work together with the United States and we will work harder to enhance, through a variety of measures on this, the defence and security cooperation between our two countries. And, further, with regard to Japan's proactive contribution to peace, including its consideration of the right to collective self-defence, we received again strong support from Australia.

At the meeting we discussed the regional situation and other issues. We reaffirmed the importance of the principle of the rule of law. And we concurred to strongly oppose any unilateral attempts in the region to alter the status quo through the use of the force. We confirmed the importance of US engagement in the region and enhanced trilateral cooperation amongst Japan, Australia and the United States.

Also today a Chinese fighter aircraft approached very close to a Japanese Self-Defence Force aircraft. We also discussed this matter at the 2+2. We discussed DPRK issues including the abduction issue as well as Pacific Island countries issues. We confirmed that we would strengthen our cooperation. As the regional security environment has become somewhat tenser we would like to work together with Australia, which is our special partner, to contribute proactively to regional stability and peace. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Minister Onodera.

DEFENCE MINISTER ONODERA: As Foreign Minister Kishida said at the 2+2 talks we discussed ways to enhance practical cooperation and defence cooperation between our two countries. The four Ministers were able to agree on recommendations to be made to leaders. In particular, the defence ministries were delighted to be able to agree on enhancing joint exercises and training. We will work closely with Defence Minister Johnston and the defence ministries will steadily define that cooperation.

With regard to the area of defence equipment and technologies, we were able to reach substantial agreement and conclusion on the content of the agreement for the transfer to third-parties of defence equipment and technology as well as on joint research on marine hydrodynamics, with the hope that it can begin in the next [Japanese] fiscal year. We agreed to make more specific the contents of the research. We hope good resources can be brought to bear to produce the very first example of this cooperation. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Minister Bishop.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Thank you. I'm delighted to be back in Tokyo, this time for the 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers' consultations, and I thank Ministers Kishida and Onodera for their warm and generous hospitality, yet again.

Australia and Japan share common interests, common values. We are both democracies, we are committed to freedoms, the rule of law, human rights. We have very similar views on economic matters; being committed to open trade and free trade, and we're delighted that Australia and Japan have concluded a free trade agreement, or economic cooperation partnership between our two countries that we hope will be signed and ratified shortly.

Invariably, and increasingly, we turn to each other to resolve regional issues. We see ourselves as natural partners in so many ways, and this was an unprecedented opportunity today to discuss practical ways that we can enhance our defence and security cooperation. Already, we've worked so closely together across a broad and diverse range of areas. Last year I met Minister Onodera at the Air Force Base in the Philippines, in Tacloban, as we were both there representing our countries in responding to Typhoon Haiyan that had so devastated our friends in the Philippines. And it was an example of Australia and Japan working closely together in response to a humanitarian crisis and a natural disaster that had hit the Philippines.

Likewise, Minister Onodera was in my home state of Western Australia recently, as Japan and Australia and other nations worked so closely together on the search for Malaysian Airlines MH370, another example, a practical example, of how we cooperate so closely, share information, share resources, for the betterment of our communities and our region, and globally.

And I was in Hiroshima in April at the invitation of Minister Kishida, as Australia and Japan both worked together for the aim of a nuclear-free world in terms of proliferation, and I congratulate Minister Kishida for hosting the Non Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative in his electorate of Hiroshima.

Our two leaders met here in April, and laid the foundations for our discussions today, and they charged us with the responsibility of coming up with practical ways to cooperate more broadly, more deeply, in the areas of defence and security. My colleague Minister Johnston can go into more of that in detail.

But we also today took the opportunity to discuss a range of other matters where we have a like-minded view. We reiterated our position that we do not support any unilateral action that changes the status quo in the East China Sea. We condemn provocative or coercive action as it relates to the disputes in the South China Sea. We discussed our coordinated approach to North Korea. We spoke about our cooperation in other theatres of conflict or crisis. And we also spoke about the opportunities for cooperation in the area of cyber-security, and Australia will be hosting our first cyber-dialogue in the second half of this year.

So, as a result of our discussions, that are continuing into the night, I believe that we have responded to the challenge our leaders gave us. And that is to have a series of proposals and initiatives and recommendations that our two leaders can take forward when Prime Minister Abe visits Australia next month. He will be a most welcome visitor to Australia. We look forward to him addressing a Joint Sitting of the National Parliament, and with these visits – Prime Minister Abbott in April, Prime Minister Abe in July, and then our Prime Ministers coming together again for the G20 in Brisbane in November – I feel sure that this very strong relationship will develop into an even more special relationship as we work closely with our dear friends and neighbours. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Minister Johnston.

DEFENCE MINISTER JOHNSTON: I too am very delighted to be here with Foreign Minister Bishop. And particularly with my good friends Minister Onodera and Minister Kishida, and I want to pause to thank them for the very gracious way they have extended Japanese hospitality to both Julie Bishop and myself at this very important 2+2 meeting.

This evening we have carried out important and productive discussions, from a defence perspective, as to how we should enhance our future relationship going forward. Now this is, and these discussions are very natural. As Julie Bishop has said, we very, very naturally relate to each other on defence and security matters. We have been engaged as a country with Japan, in Cambodia, East Timor, Iraq, and now in South Sudan. And so during those engagements we have built a very high degree of trust, a very high degree of understanding interoperability. But more importantly, we have built a great friendship across our defence forces. Now this is a very, very valuable currency going forward.

We see defence and security cooperation with Japan as a very, very important pillar to our bilateral relationship. And I may say that for more than forty years Australia has enjoyed a tremendous industrial relationship with Japan on so many fronts, be it minerals, be it oil and gas, be it motor vehicles, etc. And this iteration, this evolution of defence cooperation looking to increase exercises, looking to exchange technology, is a very natural fit to what is already a very strong and very excellent relationship between our two countries.

So we discussed how we can take these matters forward in a very frank and friendly way. I want to again, in closing, because Minister Bishop has said many of the things I wish to say, but I want to thank the two Ministers very much for again their hospitality and their friendship. Thank you very much. Domo arigato gozaimashita.

MODERATOR: Just on that domo arigato gozaimashita. Thank you very much Minister Johnston. Now let's move on to the Q&A session. If you have a question please raise your hand. Then please speak to the nearest microphone and state your name and affiliation, and please specify to which Minister you are addressing your question. Because of the time constraint one person one question each please. Now let's ask the Japanese press corps to ask a question.

QUESTION: I am Julio in charge of defence matters at Fuji Television. I have a question about the agreement for the transfer of defence equipment technology. My question is for both of the defence ministers. I see that substantial conclusion of the agreement was made. What about the schedule for the signing of the agreement? Can you tell us more about the timeline considered going forward? And also, as far as Australia is concerned, I can see that Australia is highly interested in Japan's submarine-related technology. What points of the Japanese submarines have caught Australia's attention? In what area would you like to see the cooperation go forward?

MODERATOR: Minister Onodera.

DEFENCE MINISTER ONODERA: With regard to cooperation on equipment and technology between Japan and Australia, a framework for the consultation was established at the working-level with an exchange of views being held when the Defence Ministers of the two countries met in September 2012. At today's 2+2 meeting we were able to reach, as much as possible, substantial conclusion on the content of the agreement on transferring technology and defence equipment.

Looking forward, we want to gain the cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others so that we can sign the document early on. We need to continue our consultations intensively to finalise that timing. At present we are still working on it and so we cannot specify the timeline for signing that document. Thank you.

DEFENCE MINISTER JOHNSTON: I agree with what Minister Onodera has said. We are very close to finalising that and I think we are still working on the appropriate way to take it forward to execution and signing. With respect to the submarine-related technology, may I say that in terms of a non-nuclear diesel electric submarine, the Japanese submarine is very, very good indeed. Australia has a program to build a new submarine and we are engaging a number of countries seeking assistance and guidance with respect to this very complex technology. So we have engaged the French DCNS, we have engaged the Germans TKNS. We also talked to the United States and to the United Kingdom. And we have also, in admiring the Japanese submarine, had the benefit of the assistance of Prime Minister Abe and Minister Onodera in being able to talk to Japan about its submarine technology. Now the particular part of the technology is generally the large nature, the 4,200 submerged tons of diesel electric submarine that is the biggest diesel electric submarine in the world. And so we are interested to carefully and sensitively seek Japanese assistance and guidance with respect to the way we should go forward in building our own submarine. I hope that is of assistance to you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. And now we will pick up the question from the foreign press corps please. Please state your name and affiliation, and specify to which minister you are addressing your question please.

QUESTION: Hello Ministers, Brendan Nicholson from The Australian newspaper. I'd like to direct this to Minister Onodera and Minister Kishida.

Clearly, there is a level of concern in Japan about circumstances in the region. Can you please just explain in a little more detail what your concerns are; what threats you are concerned about, and what role you feel Australia can play? And is it possible to be a little more specific about what help Japan might be able to give Australia in developing submarines? It's not that long ago that for constitutional and other reasons Japan was reluctant to share its military technology. Do you feel now that you would be free to help with parts of a submarine, general technology with it, research on how they operate or whole submarines?

MODERATOR: Minister Kishida first please.

MINISTER KISHIDA: Well, what kinds of threats are there? First, looking at the Asia-Pacific region, and looking at the security environment, just recently the increased tension has received due recognition. There are too many complications to mention in detail, and today at the 2+2 meeting we discussed the security environment. We reaffirmed the importance of working bilaterally and trilaterally the Japan-Australia and Japan-Australia-United States in relation to area on these matters. When considering stability in the region, of course the involvement and engagement of the United States is very important. Both of us were able to affirm that and concur that we hope that Japan and Australia should have a variety of partnerships and cooperation. These are a must. We know different frameworks like the EAS and other frameworks exist in the region for having discussions. We would place emphasis on these, and we hope that we can communicate better with all of the relevant countries.

So through good communication, and through good cooperation, we hope individual issues can be addressed to in a cooperative fashion, and that we can do a convincing job.

Allow me to speak about the submarine-related question. I will be very brief.

Minister Johnston mentioned that [Australia] appraises highly Japan's submarine technology. Once again, we do appreciate his highly positive remarks. Japan has its three principles for transferring defence equipment and technology. This is the new three principles which we have created; we take into consideration the appropriateness of the destination for transfer and the threats to the situation. Based on the views on the international situation we would assure that the transfer was appropriate. In that context at the 2+2 meeting held this time, we were managing properly the issue of transferring equipment and technology and we were able to reach a substantial conclusion of the contents of the agreement for transfer of that relevant equipment and technology between the two countries. As for specific issues, we are looking forward to conducting joint research in marine hydrodynamics and we hope it can be started in the next fiscal year. So in the meantime until then our work will be more specific. The substance of the joint research contents will be technologies that can be commonly applicable to many areas not only for submarines. These matters do not involve any of the constitution-related issues or problems. Thank you.

MODERATOR: And with this ladies and gentlemen I would like to conclude the joint press conference.

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