2+2 Joint Press Conference

  • Joint transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Australia and Korea bilateral co-operation; Defence co-operation; China trade and defence issues; cybersecurity and Korean War fallen.
13 September 2021

Speaker A: Good afternoon. Thank you very much for waiting. Now we will start the joint press conference of the Fifth RoK Australia Foreign and Defence Ministers meeting. We'll start with the opening remarks of the Foreign Ministers and then move on to Q and A with the press. Minister Chung will start the opening remarks. Minister Payne will follow, Minister Suh will follow and then Minister Dutton will follow. Minister Chung, please go ahead.

Chung Eui-Yong: Well, good afternoon. Great to see you all. Well, my apology for the delay. We had a very long talk and we were slightly behind the schedule. First of all, let me extend my gratitude to Foreign Minister Payne and Defence Minister Dutton for visiting Korea for the fifth RoK Australia Foreign and Defence Ministers meeting. Well, this year marks 60th Anniversary of forming diplomatic ties between the two countries. The RoK and Australia fought together at the Korean War and have worked together for universal values like free democracy and human rights, developing friendship and mutual trust. Today's meeting was an opportunity for us to explore the possibility of elevate the bilateral relationship to comprehensive strategic partnership. We talked about the bilateral cooperation, Defence Security Partnership, Korean Peninsula issues, cooperation for regional and global issues in the [unclear] COVID together. We discussed all of these issues in depth and adopted a joint statement. The RoK and Australia have agreed to have a substantive discussion in various areas and develop future forward bilateral cooperation, for cooperation. We discussed how we deal with the environment and climate change and we also signed a cyber critical technology cooperation MoU to expand the scope of our cooperation and in order to proactively promptly respond to the rapidly changing security environment, the two countries exchanged the opinions to expand bilateral cooperation across defence and security issues. We have have agreed for peace and prosperity in the region we need a complete denuclearisation and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and the two countries will support the resumption of the peace process on the Korean Peninsula and the two countries will proactively work together for the peace and stability in the region. And we also explored how to cooperate on Korea's new Southern policy in Australia's Indo-Pacific strategy. In addition, we've formed our shared commitment providing an equitable access to core vaccines and preventing a reoccurrence of the similar health crisis in future. After we overcome this crisis, we've agreed to revitalise people to people exchanging various ways and especially as soon as this COVID epidemic is stabilised the end, of overcome to some extent we are agreed to pursue a ROK President Moon's to visit to Australia with the invitation of the Australian Prime Minister and lastly, we have agreed to hold the next RoK Australia Foreign and Defence Ministers meeting in 2023 in Australia. Where will we will further expand the scope of our partnership. Thank you so much.

Speaker A: Thank you very much. Next Minister Payne, please go ahead.

Marse Payne: Thank you and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your patience. Can I begin by thanking our hosts very much for hosting the fifth Australia/Korea Foreign and Defence Ministers Meeting. It's in fact, my third 2+2 with the Republic of Korea. And it is great to be back in Seoul. We're very pleased, particularly to visit during the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries. When I met Foreign Minister Chung in London in May, I committed to visiting again, and it's very good to be here. Can I also thank our officials. It is fair to say that it is very challenging to bring together meetings of this nature at this particular time. The COVID pandemic complicates the challenges and exacerbates the smallest of issues to deal with. So, we're very grateful to them for their patience and for their efforts in ensuring that this was a successful meeting. Here in Seoul can I particularly acknowledge Her Excellency Cathy Raper, Australia's Ambassador to Seoul, and thank her, her team very much for their support for our visit.

Ladies and gentlemen, Australia and Korea are strong, like minded democracies, and we share a similar outlook for a secure, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. We're also advanced economies that rely on free trade and the rule of law. We're both strong allies of the United States. We're close neighbours with Southeast Asian nations. Our strategic perspectives are complementary. Australia's Indo-Pacific approach in the ROK's new Southern Policy Plus both centred on upholding principles of openness, transparency and inclusivity. We support ASEAN centrality, ASEAN led architecture and the ASEAN outlook for the Indo-Pacific. Our meeting today has built on Prime Minister Morrison and President Moon's agreement to the elevation of bilateral relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Today we agreed to deepen our security and defence cooperation, security and strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific across a range of areas. Firstly, regular exchanges on cybersecurity and space policy, working together on regional recovery from COVID-19 and through closer coordination to enhance vaccine access and delivery, coordinating trilaterally with our mutual ally the United States, and supporting regional economic resilience by promoting transparent rules based trade. We committed to promoting economic openness and opposing coercive economic practises, which undermine that rules based trading. Mr Chung and I have agreed to examine options to further expand and diversify our economic relationship, and I was very pleased today to sign an MoU on cyber and critical technology cooperation. We also had the opportunity to discuss regional strategic and security challenges, including our responses and concerns in relation to the situations in both Afghanistan and Myanmar. We welcomed the Republic of Korea's commitment to inter Korean engagement and the work of President Moon and his government on those matters. Our relationship is part of a vital network that underpins broader regional stability and prosperity. That's why we are strengthening our partnership as we have done today, and it is so important that we continue to work together. Thank you.

Speaker A: Thank you very much Minister Payne. Next Minister Suh will make his remarks.

Sun Wook: Good afternoon. First of all, I'd like to thank Foreign Minister Chung for the preparation for hosting the 2+2 Ministers meeting, and I'd like to invite deepest gratitude to Defence Minister Peter Dutton for sharing his insights in the Defence Minister's meeting and the 2+2 meeting. I'd like to also extend my welcome to Minister Marise Payne for visiting Korea for this meeting. In particular, Minister Payne delivered keynote speech in the Seoul Secure Dialogue back in 2017 as Defence Minister at that time, and it was great for me to meet the Minister in person. Australia is a precious friend of Korea that fought together for the freedom and peace of Korea in the Korean War. And Australia is also a strategic partner with which we are working together in all fronts based on common values. Today, the two countries share the assessment on the current security environment in the Indo-Pacific, in the current security environment where major power competition is getting more fierce and traditional and non traditional security threats are on the rise, the security cooperation expansion between the two countries will make a positive contribution to the security of the two countries as well as the region. Also, we have shared the assessment that the various combined exercises where RoK and Australia are taking part, will contribute to the enhancement operability of the two countries' militaries. And we also agreed that the exchanges and cooperation between the defence ministries and the armed forces will continue to expand. We have also agreed that we need to expand cooperation in defence industry and logistics in order to effectively meet future security challenges. Based on shared values the two countries are closely working together not just bilaterally but also multilaterally in the ABM and plus PKU operations in [unclear]. Those countries also agreed to work together for the success of the peace [unclear] Ministers meeting in December of this year. Last, but not least the two countries share the belief that the remains of fallen soldiers who've sacrifice their lives should be excavated and sent back to their families. The two countries signed an MoU on the excavation of the remains of the fallen folders in 2019, and we agreed to continue to cooperate to recover and identify missing Korean War personnel. I hope today's meeting will contribute to peace and prosperity of the region. Thank you very much, Minister Suh. Minister Dutton, please go ahead.

Peter Dutton: Ladies and gentlemen, firstly, want to say thank you sincerely to both Minister Chung and also to Minister Suh for co-hosting what's been a very successful and productive Australia/Korea 2+2 meeting. I think the meeting today really reflects on the strength of our bilateral arrangement, to our relationship, our close co-operation, particularly on defence and security issues. Our relationship with Korea, of course, goes back to the Korean War, where 340 Australians made the ultimate sacrifice and to this day, 43 Australian service personnel remain unaccounted for, and the Australian government remains committed to finding them. And we thank sincerely the Republic of Korea for your commitment to help us recover and identify the remains of those Australians. To that end, the Australian government has recently shared with the ROK, DNA profiles from consenting families of Korean War missing casualties to assist our joint efforts.

And Australia and the Republic of Korea, are of course natural defence partners. We both have robust democracies and top tier militaries, and we're both key US allies. For several years we've held the biennial Exercise Haedoli Wallaby, an anti submarine warfare exercise between the Australian and Korean Navies. I look forward to this taking place again later this year and despite the recent challenges of COVID, we have been able to maintain regular bilateral defence exchanges. I also want to extend my thanks to the Republic of Korea, who hosted the HMAS Ballarat in May of this year, which again was a very successful visit, even though in the current circumstances it was contactless.

Minister Suh, I really want to thank you for the engagement and we agreed on several key outcomes, I think, which will enhance our forces interoperability and strengthen our defence relationship. We agreed to build on the ROK's inaugural participation in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021, and we look forward to your participation into the future. Additionally, we're in the final steps of developing an annual bilateral infantry exercise that will commence in 2023, and our cooperation on defence industry continues to grow. We're building closer ties by sharing resources, by reducing risks and building resilient global supply chains. We also made good progress in relation to the bilateral MoU on Defence Industry and Material Cooperation, which will facilitate greater capability, collaboration between our countries. We're enhancing defence science and technology collaboration, key areas that will define our future, the operability and the capabilities both bilaterally and trilaterally with the United States. We will boost reciprocal attendance at defence education and training courses and will cooperate on peacekeeping efforts. The initiatives we've agreed to today will further our joint efforts to maintain peace and stability in our region. And whilst we face an increasingly uncertain and contested strategic environment, we face it together. So I look forward very much to close engagement with Minister Suh and to thank him again for his warm collegiality and his friendship. Thank you very much.

Sun Wook: Thank you very much.

Speaker A: Will now move on to Q and A with the press due to time constraint. We will take three questions from both Korean and Australian journalists. First, a Korean journalist [unclear].

Korean Journalists: Yes, I am [unclear] from broadcasting. The first question is about North Korea and this goes to the ministers from both countries. So the DPRK just announced that it has fired the long range cruise missiles and what they think of the intention of the DPRK and with that regard, in what aspect how the two countries can cooperate with each other. We do understand that there has been a discussion at the US Congress about potential expansion of the 5 Eyes to include certain countries which would of course require consultation among US and its allies. What's your take on this? And last but not least, my third question is I know that Korean government is now trying to seek a balance between the US and China, whereas Australia is more standing against China. So I want to know whether you discussed about this Chinese matters, and I know that there is a chance that a Quad summit could happen at the later part of this year. I want to know what kind of discussions or what kind of agenda you're going to include. And do you want Korea to be part of Quad?

Speaker A: So these were questions for 40 ministers of the two countries. So the first question was about the DPRK's intention regarding the long range cruise missile launch. Minister Chung, please answer the question first.

Chung Eui-Yong: Well, today the DPRK announced it fired long range cruise missiles during weekends, and by working with the US, we are we have analysed. So we are in the process of analysing the DPRK's intention. North Korea is resuming its nuclear development activities and in just six months DPRK fired another long range cruise missiles. It is resuming its nuclear missile activities and that shows that we have to have dialogue with DPRK to find a fundamental resolution. And we have to make engagement with the DPRK, and the situation is very urgent and Australia has been supporting consistently the peace process of the Korean Peninsula. Australia is a very close ally to the RoK and during this Foreign and Defence Ministers meeting we have agreed on the various issues with regard to North Korea and the Korea peace process and going forward we will reinforce our partnership and cooperation for the peace process on the Korean Peninsula. And as for the Five Eyes question, the legislation is in the process and has not been completed in the US Congress yet. So it is still too early for us to make a comment about Five Eyes and with the Five Eye countries, we are engaging in the cooperation in various areas. And today we signed an MoU on cyber critical technology cooperation, and this is a part of our efforts to engage in cooperation. As for China, well, under the regional agenda, we have discussed this with the Ministers from Australia. And as for the our position on Quad Regional Cooperation Initiative initiative, anything it is it is inclusive and opened. Then we will participate and we will work with any regional initiatives. So that's the basic principle of the RoK government and whether to join or not the Quad. That's a black or white approach, and we'd like to be more more flexible. We will look at each issue in each area so that if one area or one issue calls for close cooperation, then we will cooperate with Australia. Thank you.

Speaker A: Thank you. Minister Payne, please answer the question.

Marse Payne: Thank you very much for your multilayered question on a number of subjects. I think if I start in relation to the DPRK, we have discussed these issues today, as you would expect in an exchange between the Republic of Korea and Australia. As I said in my opening remarks, we welcome the Republic of Korea's engagement to commitment to inter-Korean engagement, and also that of the United States to the same pursuit. We agree that permanent peace and stability on the Peninsula will only be achieved through dialogue. In relation to sanctions, Australia has been explicitly clear for an extended period that we remain committed to enforcing UN Security Council and our own autonomous sanctions in relation to the DPRK until clear steps are taken towards complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. And regarding the announcement that North Korea has conducted long range cruise missile launches over the weekend, I don't intend to speculate on what the intentions might have been with those launches, but I would reiterate Australia's consistent statements that have called on the DPRK to make a sustained commitment to talks with each of the Republic of Korea and with the United States. You asked, I think questions about China, and I'm not sure that I would agree with your characterisation of the Australia/China relationship because we do seek constructive engagement with China. We've placed a great deal of importance on the relationship, and Australia and the ROK have their own policies on China or their own approach to managing relations, and I'm not going to comment or speculate on any other countries approach. But we always consider the advancement of our national interests in the context of that relationship as any sovereign nation would be expected to do. And indeed, I can affirm that we would certainly be very open to constructive dialogue with China and senior representatives of the government. We have made a number of offers on many occasions to do so recently, but they have not been taken up. In relation to the Five Eyes and the Quad, which are extremely different entities, and I think it is important to note that. The Five Eyes is obviously a traditional grouping of longstanding that began with a particular foundation in intelligence sharing, but now from time to time, speaks with a common voice when necessary on key issues. The Quad itself, though, is really a diplomatic network that has a strong focus from four major democracies on our shared interests in a region that is free and open, a region that is independent and secure and stable and also our shared support for the global rules and norms that have effectively underpinned the prosperity and the stability that this region, in fact, the globe has overwhelmingly enjoyed for decades. It enables us to cooperate as partners on a wide range of issues. And if you look at the key areas of cooperation in the most recent leaders meetings they have covered questions of the Quad vaccine initiative, matters concerning climate change and particularly low emissions technology, matters concerning critical technologies and cyber, the danger of disinformation in a pandemic. So, I think that the flexibility and the agility that a network like the Quad brings at a time like this is very useful and it's very powerful. I don't think they necessarily need to be extended because every participant has its own bilateral and many lateral relationships around the region. In fact, today's 2+2 is the perfect example of how effective those relationships can be and particularly seeing it enhanced to a comprehensive strategic partnership for Australia and Korea. I did a quick check in my head of the number of pathways through which we're able to engage in addition to this. There is, of course, the MIKTA grouping, Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia. The G20, APEC, the [unclear] itself, the East Asia Summit, which we spoke about today as well, the ASEAN Regional Forum. We are both currently G7 Plus outreach partners, and I think these are strong pathways that we are able to enhance our engagement both together and more broadly with other partners.

Speaker A: Thank you very much. Now we'll take a question from an Australian journalist, Carrington Clark for ABC. Please go ahead.

Carrington Clarke: Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to ask the question. It's to you, Defence Minister Dutton. You use notably more strident language than your South Korean counterpart to describe China's behaviour in the region, including accusing it of coercion and aggression. In today's meeting, did you get the impression that they share your characterisation? And what is it that you're trying to achieve by continuing to use this type of language when describing China's behaviour?

Peter Dutton: Thank you. Thank you for that question, obviously as Australia’s Defence Minister, my job is to put our case strongly. Australia wants nothing more in our region than prevailing peace and we want to have a continuation of the environment as we know it. As Senator, Minister Payne pointed out, we are like-minded democracy with the RoK. We have a similar outlook for that security, that openness and that prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. China obviously is a long standing partner of both the RoK and from, and Australia, and we have obviously our own policies when it comes to China. I think that's a very important point to make. And as part of these discussions, we put our perspectives and from Australia's perspective, we have an experience and that's a direct experience in terms of some of the behaviours that I've spoken about before. But as I say, our overarching priority and principle, which I think we share deeply with the ROK is to make sure that we have that continued security in the Indo-Pacific. We have a respect for sovereignty and our two countries share values and perspective that, that lent weight to that and the depth of our relationship, I think has only been enhanced through these discussions. And I look forward to what comes out of the discussions today because there's a heavy work agenda and there's a great opportunity for us to strengthen the relationship even further.

Speaker A: We will now take the last question from Korean journalist, [unclear] please go ahead.

Korean Journalists: Good afternoon. First of all, I have a question for Minister Suh of Korea. This summer the RoK Armed Forces took part in the Exercise Talisman Sabre with the US and Australia. So what's your assessment of the outcome? And do you have any other plan to continue to take part in combined military exercises that are military and non military?

Korean Journalists: Thank you very much. Koreans are expecting good news about Redback. I surely anticipate a good result at Land 400 phase 3 programme. What are your evaluation and expectation under Korea-Australia cooperation in defence industry? Thank you.

Speaker A: Minister Suh please go first, then Minister Dutton.

Sun Wook: So Exercise Talisman Sabre is organised biannually and the RoK forces took part in that exercise as an observer in 2019 and this year was our first time to take in that exercise in an official manner. As I mentioned earlier, Australia is a like minded country that share core values. So we are working together in multilateral exercises that enhance interoperability of the military of the two countries. I believe this is in line with the security interests of the two countries and contribute to the stability in the region. That's why we are participating in those exercises. Regarding the second question. The two countries have worked together in exercises for a long time. From 2012 we have had Haedoli Wallaby Exercises and there are other seven other multilateral exercises we are working together. In 2019 ROK co-chaired the Expert Working Group of Maritime Security, India ADMM plus and coordinated the FTX on Maritime Security and Counter Terrorism where Australia, the US, China and Russia all took part. So I believe the combined exercises will contribute to the stable security environment of the region and we have intention to participate in other multilateral exercises with Australia where other countries in the region take part in. So let me tell you a bit about our agreement with the Minister Dutton. We agree that it's important for us to ensure freedom of navigation in and over flight over the Indo-Pacific. And our government has consistently expressed this. So I believe participating in multilateral exercises with Australia will in a broad sense contribute to this principle and stability of the region. As Minster Chung explained earlier, there is no specific discussion regarding a Quad plus or Five Eyes in today's 2+2 meeting. So our principal is once again we can cooperate with any international body that ensures openness, inclusiveness and transparency. And this type of cooperation is ongoing regarding the pandemic and vaccine provision. Regarding Five Eyes there is a lot of attention to the US legislatures move to review, but I think we have to monitor the situation and wait for more discussions to come. Thank you very much, Minister Dutton, please go ahead.

Peter Dutton: [inaudible] enhancements over this decade in relation to Land 8116 Phase One, which is the Protected Mobile Fires contract. Is that better? In relation to Land 8116 Phase 1, the Protected Mobile Fires contract. Well, firstly, we say thank you very much to the ROK for assisting Hanwha Defence. Australia and Hanwha Defence Corporation in its bid on that project. The project would see the successful bidder, build and maintain 30 self-propelled Howitzer artillery vehicles and 15 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles. On the 30th of September last year, the Australian government released a request for tender for that project to the preferred supplier Hanwha Defence Australia, a subsidiary of ROK company, Hanwha Defence and Hanwha Defence Australia submitted its tender response on the 1st February this year. The project will maximise Australian industry participation with opportunities to include warehousing, transport, supply, supply chain participation, maintenance and facility construction. In relation to Land 400 Phase 3, which is the Land Combat Vehicle System Infantry Fighting vehicle, again, congratulate Hanwha Defence Australia on being one of two shortlisted tenderers on that project. The second stage of the tender evaluation, the two year risk mitigation activity commenced in October of 19 and is scheduled to conclude obviously later this year. Following the conclusion of this activity, the recommendation of the preferred tenderer will be presented to government we expect early next year.

Speaker A: Thank you very much. Now we have approached the end of the press conference. Thank you very much for your participation. Now this wraps up the joint conference. Thank you.

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