***E&OE Check against delivery***
Minister Kishi: Honorable Linda Reynolds, Minister for Defence of Australia and I just concluded our meeting, marking the first face-to-face defense ministerial meeting held at Ichigaya since the spread of COVID-19.
- Minister Reynolds and I had a very fruitful discussion for further promotion and materialization of Japan-Australia defense cooperation, and announced a joint statement in the names of both Ministers.
- We exchanged views on important regional issues including North Korea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea. We concurred to continue our close coordination by sending a clear message that we strongly oppose to any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by coercion in the said waters.
- In this context, we would like to announce that vessels of Japan and Australia, together with the United States are going to sail in the South China Sea to conduct a trilateral exercise starting from this evening till early tomorrow morning, Japan time.
- In addition, we reaffirmed Japan and Australia’s continuous commitment in our efforts to achieve complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of any of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges, and to cooperate firmly on patrol activities against illicit ship-to-ship transfers in which North Korean ships are involved.
- Moreover, I believe we were able to share respective views on what our defense authorities need to cooperate in the future, including measures against infectious diseases and enhancement of our interoperability. We instructed our 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.
- Australia is our “Special Strategic Partner” in the region and Japan Ministry of Defense and Self-Defense Forces are going to deepen our bilateral defense cooperation and exchanges to uphold and reinforce the Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
Minister Reynolds: I am delighted to be back here in Tokyo and have the opportunity to meet my new counterpart, Minister Kishi, in person, after our first virtual meeting last week. Thank you Kishi-san and Japan’s Ministry of Defense for hosting me. It is a great privilege to be in Tokyo to reaffirm the importance of our Special Strategic Partnership. I recognise the effort required to host a visit during these difficult circumstances due to COVID-19. I thank all my Japanese hosts for the rigorous COVID-19 measures put in place to make this important visit possible.
This is only my second international trip since COVID-19 restrictions began. Which is testament to the highest regard Australia holds the bilateral relationship with Japan.
Our relationship is based on trust and is also based on friendship, shared liberal democratic values, common strategic interests and also on our respective alliances with the United States.
As we face the challenges of COVID-19, our relationship is taking on even greater significance. At this time of strategic uncertainty, the need to push ahead with our shared security and our defence agenda has never been more important. I am fully committed to working with you, Kishi-san, to deepen and expand our practical defence engagement.
Closer bilateral cooperation and coordination with regional partners is vital to maintaining a free, open, inclusive and a prosperous Indo-Pacific. In this regard I also warmly welcome Prime Minister Suga’s current regional travel to Indonesia and to Vietnam. Despite the challenges the global pandemic presents, the past year has seen extraordinary growth in the Australia-Japan defence relationship. I am pleased Australia is conducting joint exercises with Japan and with the United States Navy within international waters in the South China Sea. Activities like this contribute to regional security, and they also increase our interoperability.
At today’s meeting, Kishi-san and I discussed, and reached agreement, on a substantial range of new initiatives. These will see our bilateral defence engagement continue to go from strength to strength. We are committed to targeted and practical action to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in our region.
We are united in our shared ambition to drive defence cooperation in cyber, defence science, technology and industry. We are increasing the sophistication of our joint exercises and operations. And together, these all enhance interoperability, integration and also our joint capability. And this collaboration will be enhanced under Article 95-2 of the Self-Defense Forces Law. Kishi-san and I have asked our officials to create a framework to protect ADF assets by Japanese Self Defense Force Personnel under SDF Law.
In conclusion, Japan and Australia share a vision for a region that is open, that is inclusive, and one where the sovereignty, and the rights of all states, large and small, are respected. Australia remains committed to the goal of North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all its nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and weapons of mass destruction.
Australia and Japan are working together to enhance our defence partnerships right across Southeast Asia and the Pacific. I am so proud to be standing next to Kishi-san at the beginning of our productive and important working relationship for both our nations.