Press conference: Eighth Japan-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: The Eighth Japan-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
10 October 2018

MARISE PAYNE: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you very much for joining us here today. Today, I've had the great pleasure and opportunity of hosting our friends from Japan here for the Eighth Japan-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, with my friend and colleague, the Defence Minister Christopher Pyne. I have welcomed our counterparts to my home city of Sydney. It is great to see Minister Taro Kono here and Minister Takeshi Iwaya here as well. We are very pleased to have you. I apologised briefly for the weather and then realised of course that when one is in the middle of a drought we should probably be more focused on welcoming the rain than otherwise.

This is the first time I've had an opportunity to participate in a 2+2 as the Foreign Minister, so it has been a very constructive and productive discussion today. We've talked at some length about the ways we already work together and how we can enhance that in terms of supporting the international rules and institutions that both Australia and Japan have worked closely within over many decades now. They are the foundations of the security, the stability and the prosperity that is so important, both in the Indo-Pacific – in which we both live – and more broadly.

There are partnerships which we already hold that we have talked about strengthening, including with ASEAN and with neighbours in the Pacific – our Pacific Island country neighbours. We reaffirmed our absolute commitment to work closely with our allies and our partners to ensure that we continue to maintain pressure on the DPRK in relation to abandonment of its nuclear WMD and ballistic missile program; that sanctions enforcement pressure, which both Minister Kono and I discussed with counterparts in the United States during the UN General Assembly visit, and subsequently that pressure is very important. We need to see real steps to complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation of the peninsula.

We talked about our practical cooperation and ways in which we can continue to enhance that. It is already very strong engagement, but as we live in dynamic strategic environment, there is always more that we can do. For over 60 years now, Australia and Japan have worked assiduously at building a security and economic partnership that is the foundation of our special strategic partnership. It's based on our common strategic interests; it's based on our shared values; it's based on the strength of our democracies and the commitment of both of our countries to engaging constructively, according to international law in the rules-based global order. We participate within the international rules in institutions responsibly and constructively together. The depths of the relationship grows ever more significant, and I'm very pleased to have hosted today's talks.

I'd now like to invite Minister Pyne to make some remarks.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Thank you very much, Marise. I think you've covered it extremely well in terms of our meeting today. The only thing that I would add is that we do very much value the Defence relationship that we have with Japan. It is long-lasting; it's deep. Japan is our closest friend in many respects in Asia, particularly in North Asia, and we cooperate closely with them in Defence matters, particularly taking part in exercises both here in Australia and in the Indo-Pacific region, and we welcome their engagement, particularly in the Pacific, where we as Australians take a particular role across the Southwest Pacific.

We've talked about how we can further enhance that relationship and we are negotiating with the Japanese Government to strengthen the agreements and the treaties that surround our relationship with Japan. And I'm looking forward to doing that. And we're pleased to have two Orions engaged in maritime surveillance and reconnaissance in the East China Sea and that part of the world, as well as the HMAS Melbourne, which has taken part in activities when it's been able to do so in terms of sanctions around the DPRK and of course surveillance and reconnaissance of that part of North Asia.

MARISE PAYNE: Thank you very much, Christopher, and – I don't know that you and I have …

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We haven't got transcriptions.

MARISE PAYNE: We don't. However, let me turn to Defence Minister Iwaya.

[Inaudible talking]

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Another example of Japanese-Australia cooperation.


MINISTER IWAYA: [Speaks Japanese]

[Via translator] … consultations. It gives me a great pleasure to have had such a meeting, and Prime Minister Morrison visited us during the meeting. We are grateful for his visit and I would like to express my gratitude to all those who worked to hold this meeting in success during today's consultation in maintaining and strengthening free and open Indo-Pacific.

The importance of Australia-Japan security and Defence cooperation and the need to further and develop more broadly that cooperation was once again what I was made to realise again. And I'm convinced that it is possible.

Regarding the regional affairs, there is a North Korean issue, but complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of all mass weapons of mass destruction in all missiles of all ranges – towards achieving that goal international community must remain united and there should be full enforcement of United Nations Security Council's resolution. And, about East China Sea and South China Sea, strong concerns were shared about unilateral intent to alter the current status.

Between the defence authorities of the two countries, we have service-level joint exercise and training, and we would like to make them more practical and would like to increase our opportunities for cooperation and [indistinct] initiative was agreed to put together in disaster response, in anti-submarine warfare and in mine sweeping, we would like to explore further possibilities. And we would also like to pursue opportunity of joint training between the air service of two countries and would also like to increase opportunities among [indistinct] level of countries, including the United States.

The efforts of our two countries are yielding steady results. Especially regarding illicit ship-to-ship transfer by North Korea, Australia is despatching aircraft to participate in surveillance and reconnaissance activities, to which we are very appreciative.

Under the new administrations in both Australia and Japan, a great opportunity was provided today to deepen discussion on defence and security cooperation. With Minister Payne, Minister Pyne and with Minister Kono I am fully determined to make an effort for regional peace, stability and prosperity.

MINISTER KONO: [Via translator] Despite rain, Sydney is still beautiful and it is a great pleasure to visit this beautiful Sydney and we were able to conclude and success 2+2 meeting. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the two Ministers and the people of Australia. Indo-Pacific region faces numerous challenges. Against this backdrop, this special strategic partnership with Australia needs growing importance more than ever. And Japan-the United States or Japan-Australia – these frameworks are also growing in importance. In Australia-US-Japan framework, cooperation should also be strengthened and consultations are held and the importance of these are once again confirmed. In the Indo-Pacific they should be based on rule of law and Indo-Pacific should be open and free to maintain and strengthen open and free Indo-Pacific.

We are- must strengthen cooperation between the two countries in South East Asia and Pacific Island countries in relation to maritime security in these regions, and we also discussed strengthening of connectivity. Regarding North Korean affairs and other regional affairs we were able to exchange views, and between Australia and Japan we were fully in alignment in our efforts. Especially in the East China Sea and the South China Sea there are attempts to unilaterally alter the current status and strong opposition to such attempts were shared.

Regarding North Korea, denuclearisation- in addition to denuclearisation, regarding abduction, we were able to gain understanding and support from Australia, and the result of today's consultation – we were able to issue a joint statement that which is quite full in substance. Between Australia and Japan, in order to strengthen cooperation together with Minister Iwaya, Minister Payne, Minister Pyne, I will continue to work closely.

Thank you.

MARISE PAYNE: Thank you. I think we have arrangements made in relation to questions; who is starting?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Australian questions first.

MARISE PAYNE: Australian questions?

[Pause while a microphone is sourced for questions]

QUESTION: Some analysts have said Mike Pence's recent speech signalled the start of a new Cold War. And he said Japan is building it's- sorry, he said China is building its own relationships with American allies that contradict peaceful and productive relations. Do the Ministers agree, and is it helpful that the US plans to include clauses in its trade deals which prevent trade cooperation with China?

MARISE PAYNE: Having spent, in fact, some time with Minister Kono in that regard- having spent a significant amount of time in the United States in the last two weeks, I've obviously had a number of discussions about the United States' concerns, particularly on trade matters in relation to China, and more broadly for that matter. And our view is always that these things are best resolved within the rules construct that has been used over very many years around the WTO and similar. So, we would encourage both parties to do that. That said, the United States will make its own sovereign decisions around their engagement in trade relations with China.

From Australia's perspective, we are always encouraging behaviours within the international order that respect the rules-based systems that had delivered us the prosperity and the security, and the stability that we have enjoyed, not just from Australia's perspective, but from the breadth of this region's perspective in terms of the Indo-Pacific over many decades now. We will always engage with our chief allies and our partners in the region to ensure that we are contributing to those three factors; to security, to stability, and to prosperity. But I look forward to continuing further discussions with Minister Kono and with counterparts in coming months. I'm sure this is a subject that is going to be one underway, one under consideration for some time.

TARO KONO: [via translator] International order based on rule of law, there are countries who prosper based on this. So, to maintain international order based on rule of law, I think [indistinct] these countries to make the effort to maintain this. No country wishes for a new Cold War. And on trade, we have the framework of WTO. Within this framework, we have maintained economic prosperity. If there are different, diverse issues within the framework of the WTO, I believe these issues need to be resolved within it. That is my understanding.

[Pause while microphone issues are resolved]

QUESTION: First ask on the – it's not at all awkward – first ask on the Trilateral Infrastructure Fund, if that arrangement has been formalised yet; have you discussed specific projects such as the one the United States has recently confirmed in Papua New Guinea? And on the Quadrilateral, will Australia, do you believe, be allowed to participate in Malabar exercises, military exercises soon?

MARISE PAYNE: Andrew, thank you very much for your question. In terms of relationship in our work with the United States and Japan on trilateral infrastructure activity, that is a continuing conversation and development. We think that there are some very important areas in which we can collaborate, and collaborate very effectively using our complimentary skills and experience. And we look forward to engaging across the region in relation to that. I mean when you think about the depth of need across the region in terms of contemporary infrastructure requirements, it is a very significant one. And I think as reliable and consistent partners, as we both are- all are I'm sorry, there is a significant contribution to be made in that regard. In relation to quadrilateral engagements, as you know, this has been the subject of officials' meetings in the past year. We have always said that we are open to receiving an invitation to participate in Exercise Malabar, but that is of course, a matter for the nations that run it currently. So, we work very closely with all members of the Quadrilateral group, as it were bi-laterally and consistently so. And we look forward to growing those relationships.

TARO KONO: [via translator] The Asia Pacific region - and there's a lot of infrastructure related financing demand, and that's a fact. Amidst the circumstances, the infrastructure transparency openness and life cycle economy – economy throughout the life cycle, and debt sustainability. These are international standards have to be complied with in terms of infrastructure projects. These complying process are important. Japan, the US, Australia; the three countries should cooperate through infrastructure standard complying projects, to strengthen connectivity of the region, I believe would contribute to the prosperity and stability of the region.

TAKESHI IWAYA: [Via translator] Joint exercises and training on that front. Japan, US, Australia, between two of these countries, or trilaterally, we'd like to seize a various opportunities to steadily implement training and exercises. If possible, we'd like to add India to this so that we can engage in joint training amongst the four countries. Toward that end, we would like to make our maximum effort.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I might just add. I'm an unabashed enthusiast for expanding the Australia-India relationship. And I was dismayed when the Rudd Government walked away from the Quadrilateral. And I think it's fair to say that we have some work to do to ensure that the other three members of the Quadrilateral see Australia's engagement as genuine and long lasting into the future. And that is all about actions, not just words. So we certainly have increased our activities with India from a military to military perspective, in terms of exercises and so forth. And if we're invited to join Malabar, of course, we would be pleased to do so. The India-Australia Defence relationship is expanding, The Defence Industry relationship is expanding as well, because there are synergies between what India wants to do in terms of build their own manufacturing capabilities and what we are trying to do. And many of the primes that operate in Australia also operate in India. And we welcome Japan's support for the Quadrilateral between our four countries and we look forward to them assisting to make sure that India and the United States all recognise it as an important forum. I see all these forums as significant across the Indo-Pacific because they give texture to the relationship and these ministers' meetings, these two-plus-twos over the last- since 2014 have actually eventuated in 66 different measures and initiatives between Japan and Australia in a military sense. And I look forward to announcements about that down the track.

MARISE PAYNE: I think now questions from the Japanese representatives.

[Questions to Minister Kono and to Minister Iwaya: questions and answers in Japanese]

MARISE PAYNE: Thank you. One observation I would make is this is my third or fourth Australia-Japan two-plus-two albeit in a different role, on this occasion and what has characterised our engagements over the preceding years and the preceding meetings and is manifested in today's discussion and also our joint statement as Minister Kono has referred to, is a significantly building depth of the relationship - depth and breadth. So we have over the eight iterations of the dialogue but most importantly and most recently we have been very focused on making sure that we are working closely together in the region; that we are providing the support of leadership, if I may say, and assistance where required that our counterparts and our neighbours find to be consistent and reliable.

Working together as closely as we do - Australia and Japan - breeds familiarity. It grows a level of agreement and effectiveness, of collaboration that flows over not just into the broad diplomatic and economic sense but into the military sense and I'm sure Christopher will add to that. Those activities add to those three factors that I think are at the basis of our broad regional engagement together: the security, the stability, and the prosperity of the region. They are the aims for both Australia and Japan, if I may say, of what we do together and indeed what we do separately.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: One of my priorities as the Minister for Defence is to build on the relationships that have gone beforehand. There's been a lot of engagement and investment in the Australia-Japan relationship and one of the first things I said when I became Minister for Defence was that one of the four priorities was to make sure that our relationship with Japan, with Indonesia, who are two very longstanding relationships was strengthened; to sharpen the saw of those relationships. So the two-plus-two gives us another opportunity for foreign ministers and defence ministers to go through a now-long list of the engagements that we already have, strengthen those, make sure that we are working together to - as Mr Kono pointed out - build the rules-based international order.

That relationship is working and we just have to keep ensuring that we're never complacent about it and I don't think there's any suggestion that we are but by having these kinds of meetings we ensure that we are forward leaning in the relationship. The same goes for the trilateral with the United States and that also needs to be kept healthy and engaging and I think out of today's meeting that relationship will continue to grow.

MARISE PAYNE: Thanks everyone.

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