1. On 10 December 2019, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, and Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, hosted the Republic of Korea (ROK) Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kang Kyung-wha, and Minister of National Defense, Jeong Kyeong-doo, in Sydney for the fourth Australia-ROK Foreign and Defence Ministers’ 2+2 Meeting.
2. Ministers reaffirmed the strength and importance of the Australia-ROK relationship, underpinned by shared values, a common strategic outlook, a thriving complementary economic partnership, and close people-to-people links. Building on the 2014 Vision Statement and 2015 Blueprint for Defence and Security Cooperation, Ministers committed to closer engagement between Australia and the ROK to support a peaceful, prosperous and stable Indo-Pacific region.
3. Both countries committed to explore avenues to cooperation between Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy and the ROK’s New Southern Policy based on the principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency, and respect for international norms. Ministers decided Australia and the ROK would cooperate more closely, with other partners and through regional architecture, to shape a region in which:
- regional economic integration advances on the basis of dialogue, cooperation and open markets that facilitate flows of goods, services, capital and ideas;
- states cooperate to address shared challenges to security and prosperity;
- disputes are resolved based on rules, norms and institutions; and
- the rights of all states under international law are upheld.
4. Recognising the aforementioned, Ministers decided to continue identifying opportunities for further collaboration in areas of mutual interest.
5. Recognising our place in an evolving region and the need for regular high-level engagement, Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to such engagement through wide-ranging and close consultations, including leader-level meetings and reciprocal visits. Ministers welcomed the warm meeting between Prime Minister Morrison and President Moon on 24 September in New York.
6. Regular dialogues, including the annual Deputy Secretary-level Strategic Dialogue and Defence Policy Talks, would help sustain momentum and identify new opportunities for substantive cooperation. In addition, Ministers decided to resume the Joint Economic Committee (between Foreign Ministries), to discuss regional economic trends, and to increase cooperation in multilateral fora to promote an open and rules-based multilateral trading system.
7. The Ministers noted that in December we would mark the fifth anniversary since the entry into force of the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA), a high-quality agreement that has helped drive mutual economic growth and prosperity.
8. The Ministers commended the productive bilateral relationship in science and technology collaboration, underpinned by the senior officials-level Korea-Australia Joint Committee on Science and Technology. Australia and the ROK would further enhance scientific and technological cooperation, including through a potential “Science and Technology Bridge” (Tech-Bridge) incorporating the “Korea-Australia Science Day” to support collaboration in areas of mutual strategic interest and explore further research cooperation on hydrogen and renewable energy.
9. The Ministers welcomed the increased level of engagement on bilateral energy and resources cooperation, including the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding on Energy and Mineral Resources Cooperation between Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy, Australia’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and the ROK’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The Ministers looked forward to continued close cooperation in hydrogen, critical minerals and other energy resources, including through trade and investment opportunities.
10. Australia and the ROK would continue to build on the existing warm and significant people-to-people and institutional links through the Australia-Korea Foundation and initiatives such as the New Colombo Plan. Since 2014, the New Colombo Plan has awarded almost 2,000 scholarships and mobility grants to Australian undergraduates to participate in short and long term study, internships and language training in the ROK. Recognising the ROK’s significant cultural influence, Ministers expressed their intent to strengthen mutual understanding and deepen cultural exchanges.
11. Minister Payne and Minister Kang signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Development Cooperation to enhance coordination between Australia’s strategy to support a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific and the ROK’s New Southern Policy. Ministers decided to continue the biennial senior-officials’ High Level Consultation on Development Cooperation to explore opportunities and review progress of activities under the Memorandum of Understanding. The Ministers also decided to strengthen collaboration through the exchange of personnel and expertise as appropriate to support future cooperation efforts.
12. The development partnership between Australia and the ROK would seek to enhance coordination and collaboration in relation to each country’s respective development and humanitarian assistance programs, particularly in priority sectors of mutual interest. Centred on principles of inclusivity, innovation and mutual respect for the comparative advantage each brings to development policy and programming, Australia and the ROK would seek practical collaboration opportunities that promote efficient and effective outcomes.
13. Reiterating the importance of stable, peaceful, prosperous and sovereign Mekong states, Ministers expressed their shared intent to increase mutual cooperation in this important sub-region. The Ministers decided to explore future cooperation opportunities in areas including infrastructure, water resources, rural development, addressing non-traditional security threats including natural disasters, and supporting the resilience and capabilities of locally-led Mekong forums.
14. The Ministers recognised the significant and unique challenges facing the Pacific, and decided to enhance cooperation in the region, including through the biennial High Level Consultation on Development Cooperation and the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Session with Forum Dialogue Partners. Building upon Australia’s longstanding support to Fiji’s health sector, Ministers welcomed the joint contributions to the Watershed Interventions for Systems Health (WISH) in Fiji, which, thanks to the KOICA contribution, will also now deliver a new water laboratory to improve infectious disease outbreak surveillance and detection in Fiji.
Defence and security cooperation
15. The Ministers noted our shared defence and security interests and decided to strengthen cooperation to address current and evolving security in an increasingly uncertain strategic environment.
16. Minister Reynolds and Minister Jeong signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the Cooperation Related to Missing Korean War Personnel. The Memorandum of Understanding formalised an already strong partnership between Australia and the ROK in the cooperation of the recovery of Korean War remains. It will greatly contribute to our combined attempts to recover and identify Australian personnel missing from the Korean War, particularly through the facilitation of DNA sharing.
17. The Ministers also welcomed the recent signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the fields of Defence Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation, which formalised the increasing cooperation between Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group and the ROK’s Agency for Defence Development. The conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding will enable enhanced collaboration on defence science and technology, with an initial joint project involving maritime robotics, already being considered by the Australian and ROK defence research agencies.
18. Underscoring the importance of a high level of bilateral interoperability between Australia and the ROK, as envisioned in the Blueprint, the Ministers decided to enhance bilateral defence cooperation through increased joint training and exercises, and reciprocal attendance at defence education and training courses. They favourably assessed the regular execution of the ROK-AUS Haedoli Wallaby Combined Naval Exercise, while noting this year’s first iteration of Exercise Pacific Vanguard and affirmed the necessity of joint exercises involving the ROK and Australia, and other likeminded regional partners, continuing in the future.
19. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening bilateral defence cooperation on peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief through annual instructor exchange visits, and information sharing, as well as their commitment to strengthening multilateral defence cooperation through regional fora. Furthermore, recognising that 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council's unanimous adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the Ministers decided to promote cooperation toward mainstreaming gender perspectives in training, exercise, and operation environments for peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and military affairs.
20. Minister Reynolds and Minister Jeong acknowledged the importance of a strong domestic defence industrial base and decided to explore opportunities to cooperate on mutual policy challenges to our defence industries. The Ministers decided to explore the reinvigoration of the annual Joint Defence Industry Cooperation Committee meeting to facilitate such cooperation.
21. Australia and the ROK decided to continue to work closely together to maintain the rule of international law, and security and safety regulations of the oceans. The Ministers welcomed ongoing reciprocal participation in capacity-building programs in relation to civil maritime security operations.
22. Australia and the ROK are committed to enhancing law enforcement cooperation and coordination in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in transnational crime and counter-terrorism. The Australian Federal Police, Korean National Police Agency and the ROK Supreme Prosecutors Office intend to sign a renewed Memorandum of Understanding to deepen cooperation on law enforcement and combating transnational crime. Australia and the ROK will also continue to work together in the Bali Process to combat people-smuggling and trafficking, including knowledge-sharing on emerging issues such as the use of biometrics.
23. The Ministers reaffirmed their joint commitment to support international efforts to ensure an open, free and secure cyberspace, and to address common cyber threats. Australia and the ROK decided to continue to hold regular bilateral cyber policy dialogues. Australian Federal Police and the Korean National Police Agency decided to continue to cooperate on investigations and knowledge-sharing activities on cybercrime strategy and countermeasures.
24. Minister Payne and Minister Reynolds commended the ROK for its commitment to the development of inter-Korean relations and acknowledged the importance of the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
25. The Ministers stressed that dialogue was the only way to achieve complete denuclearisation and establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula as set out in the Panmunjom Declaration and Pyongyang Joint Declaration, and called on all countries to implement United Nations Security Council resolutions fully. Australia and the ROK called on the DPRK to make a sustained commitment to both US-DPRK and inter-Korean talks.
26. The Ministers noted that the United Nations Command's maintenance of the Armistice Agreement contributed to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and enabled the implementation of inter-Korean confidence building measures contained in the Comprehensive Military Agreement. The ROK Ministers welcomed Australia’s continued participation in the United Nations Command and highlighted its support for Australian Vice Admiral, Stuart Mayer, in his role as the Deputy Commander of the United Nations Command.
27. The Ministers expressed strong concern regarding the DPRK’s short-range ballistic missile launches and shared the view that the DPRK must faithfully comply with its obligations under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. Both sides also affirmed the importance of enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolutions by the international community. The ROK acknowledged Australia for its ongoing contribution to sanctions enforcement.
Regional and global architecture
28. The Ministers decided that Australia and the ROK had a shared interest in fostering strong and resilient regional architecture, including to respond to challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. They reiterated their strong commitment to ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN-led regional architecture, particularly the East Asia Summit. The Ministers welcomed ASEAN’s adoption of its Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and decided to support its implementation.
29. The Ministers welcomed the adoption of the East Asia Summit Leaders’ Statement on Cooperation to Combat Transnational Crime (4 November) and the ASEAN Regional Forum Statement on Promoting the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (2 August), that both Australia and the ROK had co-sponsored.
30. The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace and stability in the South China Sea. The Ministers expressed their concerns about developments in the South China Sea. They emphasised the importance of upholding freedom of navigation and overflight, and the need for states to resolve disputes peacefully, in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Ministers acknowledged ongoing discussions on a Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea and called for the COC: to be consistent with international law, including UNCLOS; to respect the rights and interests of all states under international law; and to reinforce existing inclusive regional architecture.
31. The Ministers also acknowledged MIKTA – the group comprising Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia – as an innovative cross-regional partnership supporting the rules-based international order and recognised the significance of further deepening MIKTA cooperation under ROK chairmanship in 2020.
32. The Ministers said they looked forward to working together during Australia and the ROK’s shared membership of the Human Rights Council in 2020. On International Human Rights Day, Ministers underscored the importance of global efforts to improve the human rights situation.