The Australian Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, and his Republic of Korea counterpart, Minister Kim Kwan-Jin, today highlighted the importance of the Australia - Republic of Korea bilateral defence relationship at the inaugural Defence Ministers’ Dialogue.
“Australia and the Republic of Korea are like-minded middle powers and our bilateral relationship is underpinned by shared strategic interests. We are natural security partners, and we will continue to look for new opportunities to deepen our defence cooperation” the Ministers said.
The timing of this inaugural Defence Dialogue is significant, taking place during the Year of Friendship, marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Republic of Korea. The relationship between Australia and the Republic of Korea has its roots in the shared sacrifice of the 1950-53 Korean War and the close relationship between our two countries has grown from this foundation.
The introduction of an annual Defence Ministers’ Dialogue, agreed to by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak in April 2011, highlights the importance of the bilateral defence relationship and the commitment of both nations to work together in support of regional security.
During the Dialogue, the Ministers committed to shaping defence cooperation to realise a measured and productive bilateral defence relationship. They agreed to enhance the defence relationship in four key areas: strategic dialogue; information sharing; exercises; and defence industry. The Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to supporting regional security.
The Ministers agreed on the importance of conducting regular dialogue at all levels to complement practical activities and align and progress defence relationship objectives. Both sides noted recent and planned additions to the program of strategic dialogue, including this inaugural Defence Ministers’ Dialogue and the introduction of Army Staff Talks in 2012. Both Ministers agreed to work towards establishing a regular “2+2” meeting of foreign and defence ministers in the future.
Recalling the Information Sharing Agreement, which came into force in December 2010, both Ministers expressed their support for the development of an information exchange culture within the defence relationship. Both sides noted that information sharing would support strategic dialogue and help to advance practical defence cooperation.
Both Ministers agreed to seek further opportunities for regular attendance at combined exercises in the Republic of Korea and Australia. They noted recent progress to advance cooperation in bilateral and multilateral exercises and acknowledged the opportunities this provides to develop interoperability and preparedness.
They also announced the development of a new maritime exercise in 2012 and expressed their desire to develop the exercise into a regular engagement opportunity, dependent on the availability of assets.
Finally, both Ministers agreed to explore avenues to strengthen defence industry cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
The discussions also extended to their perspectives on the security and stability outlook for the Asia Pacific. Minister Kim expressed his gratitude towards the Australian Government for its support on issues concerning the Korean Peninsula, while Minister Smith affirmed the Australian Government’s continued support for the efforts of the Government of the Republic of Korea to establish peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. Minister Kim acknowledged Australia’s continued commitment to the United Nations Command and the maintenance of the 1953 Armistice agreement. Both Ministers expressed the desire to continue working together to approach shared security challenges.
In recognition of the importance of the bilateral defence relationship, the Ministers signed a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding in the field of defence cooperation, providing a basis for the further deepening of the defence relationship.
“In shaping our already strong bilateral defence relationship to ensure it is measured and productive we are demonstrating our commitment to meaningful defence engagement” the Ministers said.
The Ministers said they would work to consolidate the outcomes of this year’s Dialogue by meeting on a regular basis.
Minister Smith and Minister Kim paid their respects at the Korean War Memorial in Sydney following the dialogue. Minister Kim expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome and hospitality of Minister Smith and the Australian delegation.
Sacha Fenton (Mr Smith’s Office): 0467 784 528
Ellen Shields (Mr Smith’s Office): 0400 347 473
Department: (02) 6127 1999