Today I completed my second visit to Japan as Minister for Defence, and my eighth visit as an Australian Government Minister.
Australia and Japan enjoy a comprehensive economic, security and strategic partnership, built on shared values and interests.
During my visit, I held formal bilateral discussions with my counterpart, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera. This followed our recent talks in the margins of the Shangri la Dialogue in Singapore in June, including a trilateral meeting with our United States (US) counterpart, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
Minister Onodera and I discussed the shared strategic interests between Australia and Japan, our efforts to deepen our bilateral defence-to-defence cooperation as well as trilateral cooperation with our mutual ally, the US.
We reaffirmed our support for the shift in US strategic focus towards our region, and the US commitment to maintain its strong diplomatic, economic and security presence. The US rebalance provides new opportunities for cooperation with the US and regional countries to build regional cooperation and capacity.
I joined with Minister Onodera in condemning the recent provocations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including its launch of a long-range missile in November 2012 and its third nuclear test in February.
We shared the view that the DPRK must comply fully with its international obligations and commitments, and welcomed the firm response by the United Nations Security Council to the missile launch and nuclear test in Resolutions 2087 and 2094.
Minister Onodera and I welcomed the entry into force of the bilateral Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) on 31 January this year.
The ACSA was utilised recently during the multilateral Operation Pacific Partnership 2013, and enables coordinated mutual logistical support between Australia and Japan in areas such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping and exercises and training.
We also welcomed the entry into force of the bilateral Security of Information Agreement, which occurred through an exchange of diplomatic notes in Canberra in March. The agreement strengthens the legal framework for the exchange of classified information between Australia and Japan, ensuring the mutual protection of classified information.
During our meeting, Minister Onodera and I discussed our bilateral cooperation on defence capacity building projects in the region.
In this context, we welcomed the commencement on 1 July this year of the secondment of an Australian Defence officer to Japan’s Capacity Building Office to better coordinate our defence cooperation programs in South East Asia and the Pacific.
Minister Onodera and I also acknowledged the increasing cooperation between Australia and Japan in support of United Nations peacekeeping efforts, particularly in South Sudan. Australia and Japan both contribute to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, with two Australian Defence Force personnel working with the Japanese Self Defense Force.
Minister Onodera and I took the opportunity to discuss the potential for Australia-Japan science and technology cooperation in the field of defence, following on from Japan’s 2011 Guidelines for Overseas Transfer of Defense Equipment. Australia and Japan are working to identify cooperative areas of mutual benefit.
As trading nations, Australia and Japan are like-minded on the importance of maritime security and safety, freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce.
I took the opportunity to reiterate to Minister Onodera the Australian Government’s commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South and East China Seas in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
While in Japan, I also met with the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Mr Yoshihide Suga, former Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and former Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba.
In addition, I met jointly with the Chair of the Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee, Katsuyuki Kawai, former Director General of the then Japan Defense Agency, Mr Gen Nakatani, and former Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone.
Minister Smith’s office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999