Press Conference Jakarta

  • Transcript E&OE
Subjects: Indonesia and ASEAN’s importance to Australia; Australia’s commitment to a peaceful, stable region; Condemnation of North Korea's testing of an ICBM.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Thanks everyone for coming. Well, you know, the Albanese Government said we wouldn't waste a day, and this is my final day. We're certainly not wasting it. I had the opportunity to meet this morning with President Widodo of Indonesia. It was great to see him again so soon after his recent visit to Sydney.

As I've said, it is impossible to overstate Indonesia's importance to Australia. We can't and won't have the region we need without a strong and prosperous Indonesia that contributes to the balance of power and keeps our region stable and peaceful. ASEAN is central to our region and Indonesia is central to ASEAN.

Ibu Retno this morning chaired the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers meeting. It is the premier forum for discussion on our regions shared opportunities and shared challenges and it comes at a critical point for our region. As she said in her opening address, the Indo‑Pacific must not be another battleground, our region must remain stable, and we intend to keep it that way.

In my address to the Summit, I reiterated Australia's commitment to a peaceful, stable region with sufficient balance to deter aggression and coercion, and to achieve this, the EAS members, all of us, must exercise agency and work together. Dialogue is of course a precondition to the region we want and the stability we all seek. I look forward to further dialogue at the ASEAN regional forum this morning.

I'm happy to take questions.

Journalist: Minister, at the East Asia forum what were the key topics that were most discussed?

Foreign Minister: Well obviously these forums are held in closed session but what I would say to you is I think it is fairly evident from the position countries take, and your observation of the region, some of the issues that concern the countries of the region. I think people ‑ nations of the region do seek peace, stability and prosperity and a region in which their sovereignty is protected.

Obviously, people are very aware of the competition between great powers, and you've heard Australia and others urge the great powers to engage in dialogue. We want the US and China to be in dialogue to ensure continued stability.

Obviously, Myanmar remains an issue that ASEAN and the region is concerned by. And again Australia reiterates publicly our support for the 5‑Point Consensus. And of course, you saw the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' statement yesterday which we support and congratulate them for issuing the condemnation of North Korea's testing of an ICBM. It's destabilising for the region, a risk to security and we urge the international community to stand in solidarity against the DPRK's breaching of international law.

Journalist: Minister ‑‑

Foreign Minister: That was a long answer, wasn't it? Sorry.

Journalist: Minister ‑‑

Foreign Minister: I've answered all the questions, I can leave. Right, Bill?

Journalist: We were wondering what to ask you.

Foreign Minister: Yeah, sorry.

Journalist: You've only done three doorstops in about two days. The Chinese Foreign Ministry today said after the meeting with Director Wang Yi that the relationship with Australia has stabilised, but they also use the language improved. Is that Australia's perception, that relations with China haven't just stabilised but they're improving? And just quickly on that, Solomon Islands, we forgot to ask you last night, did you raise the security pact with Director Wang?

Foreign Minister: I'll do that backwards if I may, the second one first. In relation to the last, yes, I did. Again, my comments reflected my public comments, which is we take the view, along with all other members of the Pacific Islands Forum, as endorsed at forum leaders, that security is best provided for within the Pacific family. We urge there to be transparency about the nature of the agreement. We understand that countries made their sovereign decisions. However the security of the Pacific is something we all have an interest in and so we urge there to be transparency.

In relation to the relationship with China, look, I think I said to you last night we note there have been ‑ there has been progress in relation to some of the trade impediments. Some of our markets, some of our industries and exports have much more access to the Chinese market now.

We will continue to engage in dialogue. We will continue to work to navigate our differences wisely. I've said that we can grow our bilateral relationships while safeguarding our national interest, provided both countries navigate our differences wisely. That's what we are seeking to do.

We have continued to call for the removal of all trade impediments and make the representations that you are aware of about Australians held in China.

Journalist: Minister, soon enough we'll have the UK joining the CPTPP. There's a group of other countries ready to do the same. What's Australia's position on either China or Taiwan doing so, and would you support it?

Foreign Minister: Well I'll make a few comments. The first is the CPTPP is an agreement of very high standards, and obviously more countries who are members, the original members CPTPP would expect those high standards to be able to be met by any country seeking to join. This is obviously a matter that the whole of the membership would be considering, but in the meantime obviously we've had a focus on finalising the matters associated with the United Kingdom's accession.

Is there anything more?

Journalist: Your excellency, you might know that ASEAN virtually the 5‑Point ‑ the countries on SEANWFZ ‑ on SEANWFZ, ASEAN ‑‑

Foreign Minister: Oh, SEANWFZ, yes, yes. Sorry, yes.

Journalist: Anyone in the forum is also asking AUKUS?

Foreign Minister: Yes, I'm happy to talk about that publicly and what I'd say to you is we share the aspirations, the hopes of ASEAN, and of Indonesia, which has played a leadership role on these issues, for a world ‑ for a region that is free of nuclear weapons. Australia has a very proud history of supporting non-proliferation, of supporting measures to end the testing of weapons and to progress the non-proliferation treaty.

In relation to AUKUS, we have been very clear. Australia does not seek nuclear weapons, right. The capability we are looking to acquire is for nuclear propulsion. And we will ensure the highest safeguards under the NPT for the material that we use in that nuclear propulsion.

We will work very closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and we will make sure there are the highest standards of safeguards and standards associated with the use of those weapons. We've said we respect the SEANWFZ, I think is the way you describe it, and we support a Southeast Asia nuclear weapons free zone.

I would also say to you that we have told the Pacific Islands Forum as well that we will continue to adhere to our obligations under the Treaty of Rarotonga, which is a similar treaty for the Pacific, and we are very pleased that the United States made public comments about making sure that any American submarines visiting the region would also comply with the Treaty of Rarotonga.

Journalist: Thank you, Your Excellency.

Foreign Minister: Okay.

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