Today I complete my three day visit to the People’s Republic of China where I met with senior Chinese Leaders and conducted the inaugural Australia-China Defence Ministers’ Dialogue with my Chinese counterpart, General Liang Guanglie.
My visit to China marks the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Peoples’ Republic of China.
I was accompanied by the Secretary of the Department of Defence Mr Duncan Lewis and the Chief of Defence Force General David Hurley.
Yesterday in Beijing I met Vice President Xi Jinping. We discussed the importance of the Australia-China bilateral relationship as strategic and economic weight shifts to the Asia Pacific region.
I conducted the inaugural Australia-China Defence Ministers’ Dialogue with Minister of National Defense General Liang Guanglie. Our discussions included a comprehensive exchange of views on issues of mutual interest, including regional security and the continued enhancement of our bilateral defence engagement.
I invited the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to conduct a second bilateral Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise in Australia later this year. This follows bilateral HADR exercise “COOPERATION SPIRIT 11”, which took place in Sichuan Province in November 2011.
We also agreed to explore options for a future bilateral peacekeeping exercise.
General Liang and I issued a joint media release reaffirming our mutual commitment to developing further our strong and robust bilateral defence relationship.
I also met with General Ma Xiaotian, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Directorate. In November 2011, General Ma co-chaired the 14th annual Australia-China Defence Strategic Dialogue with the Vice Chief of Defence Force and Deputy Secretary Strategy at HMAS Watson in Sydney.
This followed the 13th Defence Strategic Dialogue co-chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Defence and Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of the General Staff of the PLA, General Chen Bingde, in December 2010 in Nantong in China. Earlier that year General Guo Boxiong, China’s most senior uniformed military officer, visited Australia.
The Secretary of the Department of Defence and the Chief of Defence Force will visit China again later this year for the 15th Defence Strategic Dialogue.
I delivered a speech on Australia and China’s growing strategic and Defence partnership at the China Institute of International Strategic Studies (CIISS) and met with CIISS Executive Vice President General Gong Xianfu.
I visited the National Defense University (NDU), where I met with senior NDU official, Lieutenant General Liu Yazhou, and discussed with NDU academics recent strategic developments and bilateral Australia-China relations.
I also met with China Institute of Contemporary International Studies scholars, including President Cui Liru and Deputy Director Zhang Xuegang.
Today I visit the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s South Sea Fleet Headquarters in Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province. I am the first Australian Minister for Defence to visit the South Sea Fleet.
Maritime engagement is a priority for our defence relationship and I am pleased that the cooperation between our two navies continues to develop.
Last month HMAS Ballarat visited Shanghai for five days to help mark the 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and the People’s Republic of China. During the visit HMAS Ballarat conducted a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the Chinese Navy frigate Anqing at the mouth of the Yangtze River.
This followed the reciprocal visits in September 2010 by HMAS Warramunga to the Chinese ports of Qingdao and Zhanjiang and the visit by two PLA-Navy ships, the training ship Zhenghe and frigate Mianyang, to Sydney and Darwin.
Also in Guangdong Province I will visit Guangzhou Military Region Headquarters, where I will meet Guangzhou Military Region Commander Lieutenant General Xu Fenlin.
Australia is committed to developing strong and positive military to military and defence to defence relations with China through dialogue and practical activities.
A copy of the joint media release is available at http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2012/06/06/minister-for-defence-joint-press-release-on-the-dialogue-between-general-liang-guanglie-state-councillor-and-minister-of-national-defence-peoples-republic-of-china-and-mr-stephen-smith-mp-minis/.
A transcript of the Minister’s speech to the China Institute of International Strategic Studies is available at http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2012/06/06/minister-for-defence-australia-and-china-partners-in-the-asia-pacific-century/.
Imagery is available at http://images.defence.gov.au/11123152.
Mr Smith's Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999