Today I completed a two-day visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) prior to departing for Japan.
I participated in the inaugural ‘2+2’ Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr and our ROK counterparts, Minister for National Defense Kim Kwan-jin and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.
The holding of the ‘2+2’ meetings was agreed by our respective leaders in April 2011 and demonstrates the commitment of both nations to work together to enhance our bilateral relationship. Apart from the United States, Australia is the only country to have ‘2+2’ talks with the ROK.
During the meeting, Ministers discussed regional and global strategic issues and ways to advance security and defence cooperation between Australia and the ROK.
Ministers agreed that ‘2+2’ Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meetings were a key bilateral mechanism and that they should occur on a regular basis every two years. The next meeting will take place in 2015 and, if practicable, will be held in Australia.
Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to holding an annual Defence Ministers’ Dialogue, and agreed that a bilateral Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue would also be held on an annual basis.
At the conclusion of the Meeting, Ministers issued a joint statement, which is available at: http://defence-ministers.govspace.gov.au/?p=11447.
After the ‘2+2’ meeting Senator Carr and I had an audience with President Park Geun-hye in Seoul.
Earlier today, I joined with Senator Carr and Ministers Kim and Yun to lay a wreath at the War Memorial of Korea. I also had the opportunity to lay a wreath at the National Cemetery in Seoul with General David Hurley, Chief of the Defence Force this afternoon.
On Wednesday 3 July, I toured the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone, and had a meeting with General James Thurman, the Commander of United Nations Command, R.O.K.-U.S. Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea.
I also met separately with Defense Minister Kim on Wednesday for the second Australia-ROK Defence Ministers’ Dialogue. Minister Kim and I held the inaugural Defence Ministers’ Dialogue in Canberra in December 2011.
Australia and the ROK have a significant defence relationship and continue to look for new opportunities to deepen practical defence cooperation between the two countries.
The relationship between Australia and the ROK has its roots in our shared sacrifice during the Korean War in 1950-53 where 340 Australians were killed. This month marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War.
During the Dialogue, Minister Kim and I reaffirmed our commitment to pursuing enhanced defence cooperation, including expanding the scope and sophistication of bilateral and multilateral exercises. We also agreed to seek opportunities for practical trilateral defence engagement with the United States.
Australia continues to be an active member of the United Nations Command and participates in a range of bilateral and multilateral exercises with the ROK. So far this year, Australian personnel have participated in the contingency Exercise KEY RESOLVE, the amphibious training Exercise SSANG YONG, and the biological response Exercise ABLE RESPONSE.
Minister Kim and I agreed to look at new opportunities for practical military cooperation, including participating in exercises in Australia. We also agreed to examine ways to improve information sharing and to increase training exchanges for our respective personnel.
This evening I depart the ROK for Japan. This will be my second visit to Japan as the Minister for Defence, and my eighth visit as an Australian Government Minister.
While in Tokyo, I will meet with Defense Minister Onodera to discuss our shared strategic interests and our deepening defence cooperation.
Australia and Japan enjoy a comprehensive economic, security and strategic partnership, built on shared goals, values and interests.
My visit to Japan will be an opportunity to continue to build on the significant progress we have achieved in our bilateral defence-to-defence and military-to-military relationship in recent years.
Imagery is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20130625.
Mr Smith’s office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999