The Minister of Defense of Japan, Mr KISHI Nobuo, and the Australian Minister for Defence, Senator Linda Reynolds, met in Tokyo on 19 October 2020 to continue to build close bilateral defence and security ties in support of an Indo-Pacific region that is free and open, secure, inclusive and prosperous.
This was Minister Reynolds’ second official visit to Tokyo and the Ministers’ first face-to-face meeting as counterparts. Undertaking such a meeting at this challenging time is testament to the value and strength of the Japan-Australia Special Strategic Partnership.
The Ministers, in their commitment to build on the momentum of defence cooperation, acknowledged the strategic and practical depth of bilateral defence and security cooperation, including training and exercises, defence science and technology, and defence industry cooperation, and coordination on regional issues of shared interest. They acknowledged common objectives and drivers of cooperation, as evidenced in the two nations’ respective strategic settings.
The Ministers shared their views on the strategic challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region, including trends accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. They noted the adverse health, economic and social impacts wrought by COVID-19 which they acknowledged would colour regional engagement in the coming period. They underscored their unwavering commitment to work closely with partners to support regional recovery and security.
The Ministers exchanged views on regional affairs, including the East China Sea, the South China Sea and North Korea.
The Ministers reinforced their strong opposition to any destabilising or coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions in the East China Sea. They expressed their intention to continue to coordinate closely on the security environment in this region.
The Ministers reinforced their strong opposition to any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by coercion in the South China Sea, and reaffirmed the importance of upholding freedom of navigation and overflight. They reaffirmed their serious concern about recent incidents, including the continued militarisation of disputed features, dangerous or coercive use of coast guard vessels and “maritime militia”, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ resource exploitation activities. They emphasised the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Ministers shared their strong concern over North Korea’s repeated violation of multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs), including repeated launches of short range ballistic missiles. They reaffirmed their commitment to efforts to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges, in accordance with all relevant UNSCRs. They urged North Korea to fully comply with its international obligations. The Ministers welcomed and reaffirmed their commitment to deter, disrupt, and ultimately eliminate the evasion of sanctions by North Korea, including illicit ship-to-ship transfers and direct shipments of sanctioned goods.
Reflecting on the resilience of the defence relationship, based on shared values and forged through times of shared challenge, the Ministers resolved to reinforce its momentum and to work closely together to respond to geostrategic challenges.
The Ministers resolved to pursue all means to forge deeper links across a range of defence and security interests, as COVID-19 measures allow. Ministers concurred:
- to enhance regular bilateral and multilateral cooperative activities in the Indo-Pacific, including maritime activities in the South China Sea, to maintain a free and open, secure, inclusive and prosperous region;
- to enhance interoperability between the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the Australian Defence Force through increasing the complexity and sophistication of bilateral exercises and operations, including testing of air-to-air refuelling;
- to continue enhancing the mutual understanding between the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the Australian Defence Force through people-to-people exchanges, including placement of the Australian Liaison Officer at the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force;
- to drive bilateral space and cyber cooperation in areas of mutual benefit;
- to deepen defence science and technology collaboration, including new possible joint research in the areas of hydroacoustics and ground vehicle autonomy; and
- to continue to grow industry-to-industry engagement to support capability for our respective defence forces.
The Ministers also concurred to continue to exchange views to support recovery and promote regional peace and security including by:
- sharing lessons learned from HA/DR operations during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- exploring new opportunities for capacity building with like-minded partners to build regional resilience;
- sharing information and exchanging views on reinforcing the rules-based international order, including working together to counter disinformation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministers confirmed the importance of further close collaboration between the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the Australian Defence Force in the Indo-Pacific region. They instructed their officials to commence necessary coordination to create a framework to protect Australian Defence Force assets by the SDF personnel under Article 95-2 of the SDF Law (Provision for the protection of weapons and other equipment of the units of the U.S. Armed Forces and armed forces of other foreign countries).
The Ministers confirmed the strategic importance of Japan and Australia finalising a reciprocal access agreement and concurred that both sides continue to make efforts towards this goal. In light of the growing bilateral defence and security relationship, the agreement will improve administrative, policy, and legal procedures to facilitate joint operations and exercises.
The Ministers reiterated their commitment to active trilateral defence cooperation and exchanges with the United States that make tangible contribution and foster cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. They also underscored the importance of cooperation with regional partners in institutional and informal settings, building habits of collaboration.
The Ministers reaffirmed their shared commitment to continue working closely with Indo-Pacific partners. They reiterated their desire to work together in cooperation with Pacific Island countries in the fields of capacity building, maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, particularly where responding to priorities of the Boe Declaration on Regional Security. The Ministers recognised that Japan and Australia would continue to coordinate closely in defence-related fora, including through their respective involvement in the Japan Pacific Islands Defense Dialogue (JPIDD) and the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM) and other relevant regional dialogues.