Thanks for your time Defence Minister. Can you tell us what was achieved at the meetings just then, particularly with Japanese Defence Command?
Well it showed us the interoperability between Japan and the United States and it also brought home to us that there is a much higher temperature in this part of the world than many Australians understand.
There are literally hundreds of airspace incursions every year and this is maintaining a level of high alert across Japan in terms of air defence capability and military generally. That’s something that surprised me and I think what we’ve seen this morning indicates that Japan and the United States are very well prepared for contingencies.
Submarine technology, why should Australia be interested in Japanese submarine technology?
We’re interested in submarine technology in the diesel-electric area across a range of countries – France; Germany; Japan; we also get assistance from the United Kingdom and the United States.
Japan has the biggest submerged-tonne-size submarine; they have a massive reputation for submarine technology and with the industrial relationship that we have with Japan it’s certainly in Australia’s best interests to engage them as to whether they can assist us as we go forward to build our own submarines.
I know there’s no timeframe as you talked about last night, but I mean what’s on the table? Are we looking at holus-bolus supporting past their technology?
That’s a very sensitive issue, it’s very sensitive because of their Constitution, and we are very careful and respectful as to going forward.
The Japanese are very keen to assist but we take small but determined steps along this technical exchange.
The obvious missing piece here is China. You’re getting closer to Japan and the comments last weekend at Shangri-La from Prime Minister Abe, what kind of message do you think this sends to China? I know we say they’re our good friends too, but in the realpolitik what does it say?
Other countries shouldn’t read anything into or out of our relationship with Japan which has been a strong industrial relationship – in Australia particularly – for more than 40 years. We also have evolving a really strong relationship with China.
They are not mutually exclusive, but what we do say is that where there is disputation, in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, those disputes must be resolved pursuant to international law.
I spend a lot of time with Chinese businessmen and, indeed after MH370, with Chinese PLA military officials.
Friendly, strong relationships have been built and that’s why I said at Shangri-La we should conduct exercises in search and rescue across the region including China, and they’re coming to RIMPAC.
I think our relationship with China is exceptionally strong.
But they’re very frank – they were last week and have been – and there’s comments coming out this morning that they don’t really look favourably on that cosying up between Japan and Australia.
I think we’ll be in China later this year and we’ll address those questions.
I think they’ll be looking back at the relationship that’s evolving with Australia.
I see many, many more positives than I do negatives.