TRANSCRIPT: Q&A FOLLOWING SPEECH AT THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF DEFENSE STUDIES, TOKYO
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 26 SEPTEMBER 2012
TOPICS: Australia-Japan relationship; China; Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for your coming here. I am [indistinct], one of the students of National Institute for Defense Studies. Before there is questions, first of all, on behalf of the students in the National Institute for Defense Studies, I would like to dedicate our sincere appreciation to extend their cooperation by Australia, when the great east Japan earthquake happened in last year.
My question is regarding to the Two Plus Two discussion, which was held in 14 September. In that discussion, both you and our Minister of Defence, Mr Satoshi Morimoto, stated to deepen the cooperative relationship between Australia and Japan in wide range spheres, like operations, exercise, research and development, and so on.
Now here, I'd like to ask you which [indistinct] are the most important for both countries to give them the mutual corporation - cooperative relationship? And if you have any concrete policies or visions to deepen the [indistinct], please let us know. Thank you very much.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, thank you very much for that question. Firstly, thank you very much for your kind remarks on Australia's contribution in the aftermath of the tsunami. We were, of course, motivated by our strong friendship of Japan, but also our humanitarian instincts to help people at a very difficult time. In my prepared remarks, I made the point that what flowed from that was a very high level of trilateral cooperation which historically we had not seen, and that encouraged us - that Two Plus Two, and also this week in Japan with my discussions with Minister Morimoto - to commit ourselves to enhancing what we do, by way of practical cooperation under the trilateral framework.
So, for example, we have discussed doing more humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises using either the trilateral format, given that we now have on a rotational basis some US Marines in the Northern Territory, in Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia, but also in the ADMM-Plus context. One of the good things that has come from the presence of US Marines in the Northern Territory, on a six month rotational basis, has been the chance to work with other countries in the East Asia Summit on joint exercises. Next year we will conduct an exercise - Australia, the United States and Indonesia. In Brunei under the ADMM-Plus there will be a military medicine and humanitarian assistance exercise which will involve all 18 countries of the East Asia Summit, or the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus.
All of these things are good developments because working together on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief builds cooperation, builds interoperability, and also builds trust and respect and reduces the prospect for misjudgement, misunderstanding or miscalculation. You've asked, in light of the Two Plus Two discussions, and this week what is the most important thing in terms of enhanced practical cooperation. The short answer is all of the above. We could, if we wanted to - both Australia and Japan - rest on our laurels, say that we have over the 50 years of our modern Australian Defence Force and Japanese Self-Defence Force relationship that we've done very well, and we don't need to do more.
But we see, whether it's Minister Genba, Minister Morimoto, Australian Foreign Minister Carr, or me, we see the potential to do more. And I think there are three important areas which we focused on both in Sydney in Two Plus Two, and this week in Tokyo. Trilateral practical cooperation, which I have referred to; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, which I have referred to; and, thirdly, the area which Minister Morimoto and I fleshed out this week, there we think very much potential for enhanced technology cooperation between Australia and Japan.
This arose as a result of the change to Japan's approach to the export of defence technology or defence equipment in 2011. The starting point for Japan's engagement on the technology cooperation front is with a like-minded country. Australia very much sees itself as a like-minded country with Japan. What Minister Morimoto and I agreed yesterday was that we would work towards a framework agreement under which technology cooperation could flow, and to do that before we contemplated or discussed in any detail a particular platform or a particular technology.
But there are things which Australia and Japan share an interest in. We both, for example, are acquiring the Joint Strike Fighter. We both, unlike the United States, have non-nuclear powered submarines. And yesterday in my discussions with Minister Edano from METI, we agreed that at some stage it would be of interest to the Japanese defence industry and the Australian defence industry to have discussions to see what potential industry saw in this area. So the work that we've done this week in Tokyo, which added to the work we did in Sydney, was in the technology cooperation area.
It's also, if I was to add in a fourth area - what we have done on peacekeeping in South Sudan is very, very good work. For the first time, not just Australia and Japan agreeing that undertaking United Nations peacekeeping work is a good thing to do, we're doing it together on the ground. And when that deployment in UNMISS finishes in about six months' time, my view is that we should look to further opportunities under the peacekeeping umbrella to continue to expand and enhance what we do in the peacekeeping area. I often use a phrase about the diplomacy of defence. The two great aspects of defence diplomacy are humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and peacekeeping. And Australia and Japan have got a good record in both areas - a very good record in both areas. But I think we can do much more together to enhance that record and enhance that reputation.
QUESTION: [Indistinct]. I believe you’ve had a number of meetings with our government officials [indistinct] Ministers. So my question is prior to your last visit there was some talk about the strategic grouping between India, Australia, US and Japan primarily [indistinct] China. So [indistinct] reluctance on this particular issue. So I just wanted your views on it as to what you - what does Australia really feel about it>
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, thank you very much for the question. I was very pleased to see the Indian flag at the front, along with an Indonesian flag, the German flag, Thai flag, and a couple of others which now escape me, but it's very good to see that here we have international students. The Australian flag is here because I think at least one or two students from Australia. So it's good to see that. The first speech I made as Foreign Minister of Australia, I said that Australia needed to enhance its engagement with India. Everyone sees China's economic rise and the rise of China. Not enough people see the rise of India. India like China, a country of over a billion people, and India is on the rise as well.
Every year that I have been a Minister I have visited India. And last year I made my visit, my annual visit, where I met with Defence Minister Antony, and I also went to Mumbai to see your Western Naval Fleet. And Australia and India need to work very closely together to enhance our cooperation in the Indian Ocean Rim. Indeed, you can mount a respectable argument that Australia, India and Indonesia are the premier Indian Ocean maritime countries, and that's why we worked closely together in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium headed by India, why Australia is very pleased to be deputy chair to India in the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation in which we chair now with Indonesia as a deputy.
You referred to what [indistinct] described as quadrilateral meeting between Australia, US, India and Japan. Such a meeting occurred a number of years ago at officials level, a suggestion by then Japanese Prime Minister Abe who Japanese students here would of course know that today is a candidate in the Presidential elections to be conducted later this afternoon. It was a suggestion he made and it occurred once at an officials level. That was a one-off and it hasn't occurred since then. And in my annual visits to India, as you indicate, I've never had a suggestion from an Indian official that such a meeting should take place again.
I've seen the suggestion that some people interpret that meeting as an effort to contain China. I've said publicly in Australia and in the Singapore Shangri-La Dialogue, and in Beijing itself, it's not possible to contain a country of over a billion people, whether it's China or whether it's India. You can't contain; you have to engage. And the most important thing that we can do with China, the most important thing that countries can do with India is to engage positively and constructively. I talked about the rise of China. Some people assume that because China is on the rise, that the United States is in decline, and there is no other strategic influence. I disagree with that analysis. I think we're seeing the ongoing importance of the United States, the rise of China, but also the rise of India. So in very many respects the most important bilateral relationship at the moment is the United States-China bilateral relationship.
China and the United States have a very close economic engagement. They need to grow their political, strategic, military and defence relationship to the same high level. I think we also mounted an argument that in decades to come the United States-India relationship and the India-China relationship will be of the same importance. At the same time we've seen the strengthening, in my view, of the importance of our regional architecture, in particular the expanded East Asia Summit. And whilst as Defence Ministers we refer to it as the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus, it's actually Defence Ministers meeting in the expanded of the East Asia Summit format. And in my prepared paper I spoke about Presidents and Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers now meeting in that guise.
That means, for example, on an annual basis you have the United States, Japan, China, India, Australia, Indonesia, Republic of Korea all meeting both in a strategic and security context but also in an investment and prosperity context and that's a very good thing, a very good thing. So the second reason why I don't think the suggestion has been picked up or made again is because I think the developments in the regional architecture have supplanted any need for such a discussion.
Because on a regular basis now, whether it's in a different context, in the G20, or the East Asia Summit, you have Australia, Japan, India, China all meeting together on a regular basis and that will provide, in my view, a very good piece of architecture for discussions on security or discussions on investment and [indistinct], and may well in time entirely supplant the ASEAN Regional Forum and see a focus on the expanded East Asia Summit as the most relevant ASEAN related piece of architecture. It endorses the unity and centrality of ASEAN, which is important.
The other underappreciated element in recent years has been the growth of the ASEAN economies combined and the emergence of Indonesia, not just as a regional influence but as a global influence. In my discussions in the last couple of days either with Diet members or with commentators and experts, I've asked about the relationship between India and Japan. I've been very pleased to hear Japanese scholars and Japanese commentators identify the importance of Japan and India growing what is a good relationship into a much more engaged and enhanced relationship.
And investment flows from Japan to India are starting to pick up considerably. It's underappreciated and I don't measure it in detail in my paper, but Japanese capital investment into Australia remains the third largest investment of capital investment into Australia.We're a country of 25 million people so our prosperity depends upon capital investment. Historically and originally from overseas, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, but now also from superannuation funds in Australia. And continued Japanese investment in Australia is very important.
Australia's trade with India has increased, off a low base, very significantly in recent years in the last decade. India has far and away been Australia's fastest growing trading partner. And that's a very good thing. And my final comment, given that you gave me the excuse to talk about all matters Indian is that I'm looking very much forward to Minister Antony coming to Australia for the first Indian Defence Minister's visit to Australia in a very long time, early next year. Thank you.
QUESTION: Sir, good morning. I am Colonel John Kim with the US Army, I'm one of [indistinct]. And Sir, in your remarks this morning you covered a lot of security concerns that the Asia Pacific region faces. My question is, what are some of your immediate security concerns? Concerns that keep you awake at night and whether [indistinct] opportunities to discuss the bilateral, trilateral or multilateral form over the past couple of months or years. I’m also wondering whether some of these concerns have been shared with other Defence leaders? And then what would you see as the kind of steps that must be taken through these bilateral, multilateral, trilateral forms [indistinct]?
STEPHEN SMITH: John, thank you very much for that question. What keeps me awake at night is the same thing that keeps Secretary Panetta awake at night: Afghanistan.
As we transition out of Afghanistan, Afghanistan continues to be difficult and dangerous. But we think we're on track to transition to Afghan led security responsibility by the timetable set by the Lisbon and Chicago Summits. We have 1550 personnel in Afghanistan. We're the tenth largest contributor, the largest non-NATO contributor, and the third largest Special Forces contributor. We've had 38 casualties, which in the United States context is a small number. But that's the difference between a country with 250 million people and a country with less than 25 million people. But we take our obligations there seriously. We see Afghanistan as a mission where under a United Nations mandate with 50 other countries we're making our contribution to reduce the risk of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area again becoming a breeding ground for international terrorists.
And as our Indonesian colleagues here today will know, we're coming very close to the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings. And Australian citizens, innocent Australian citizens, have been the victims, as have innocent Indonesian citizens, the victims of terrorist attacks in Indonesia. But also in Australia's case, in the United States and in Europe. So that's what keeps me awake at night. In the longer term what we give a lot of thought to and I give a lot of thought to is how our region and the international community manages the changing strategic shifts and influences. And these issues are not [indistinct], we all live with them pretty much on a daily basis.
And it's, in a sense, drawing the strands together with some of the things I responded to - questions from our [indistinct] the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the ASEAN economies combined, the ongoing importance of the United States, the United States' commitment to not just continue to engage in the Asia-Pacific, but to enhance this engagement.
And whenever you have a change in strategic influence, the world has to adjust and manage that. So how do we make sure that that occurs in the way in which posterity, stability continues? And I've touched upon many of those things. Firstly, constructive and positive bilateral relationship between the United States and China is essential. And the United States and China, I think, are underappreciated in the effort that they put into that.
Secretary Panetta's recent visit to Beijing, the two plus two that the United States and China engage in their format- Secretary of State, Clinton and Treasury Secretary Geithner- so joining the strategic with the economic. The challenge for China and the United States is to avoid strategic competition and to raise the level of their political, strategic defence and military engagement to the same [indistinct] their economic engagement.When I was visiting the United States a number of years ago, aUnited States commentator said to me, Minister, Australia has a very close relationship with China, a very strong economic relationship with China and I worry about what implications that has for Australia's military alliance with the United States.
To which I said yes, Australia does have a very close economic engagement with China. The only country I know that has a greater economic engagement with China than Australia is the United States.And there's nothing inconsistent with a comprehensive relationship with China and alliance with the United States that you serve Australia and [indistinct] for over 60 years.
So how do we manage all of these emerging influences? I'm told by those people who are on the ground and on the ends of phones at the time, that when the Cold War was at its peak, the United States and the Soviet Union, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was next to no economic engagement between the United States and the Soviet Union, hardly any. But there was a very intense political strategic military and defence engagement. Because the risk of miscalculation and the adverse consequences were so great that you couldn't afford not to have that intense understanding and capacity to deal quickly and directly on issues that might become flashpoints.
We see at the moment, potential for concern or consternation in the East China Sea or the South China Sea. And maritime or territorial disputes, whether they're in our region or in other parts of the world. If not handled carefully and managed well, can be causes for misjudgement, miscalculation and misunderstandings. And it's not just Japan and China who have issues in maritime and territorial matters. In our region, variously, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia - there are a range of countries who, for a long period of time, frankly, have had maritime or territorial disputes.
Australia's very strong view is that the most important thing that occurs in those disputes is that they are managed in accordance with international law; that they're resolved amicably amongst the parties; that they are resolved consistent with international law, consistent with the law of the sea, consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. And it's very important because these maritime or territorial disputes often have longstanding emotional attachment, very important they're managed calmly and with restraint.
And that's why when Minister Genba and Minister Morimoto came to Sydney, got off the plane in Sydney on a bright Friday morning in Sydney, were greeted with the news that six PLA vessels were in Japanese territorial waters. Their response was we need to respond with a level head and calm and restrained way. And the Japanese Prime Minister who left on Monday night to go to the United Nations General Assembly and just by coincidence, or in passing I mentioned it last night, the Australian Prime Minister and the Japanese Prime Minister met to form bilateral [indistinct] which is another reflection of the kind of exchanges that we have.
His remark as he went to New York was we have to resolve this matter calmly and in accordance with the rule of law and Australia agrees with that. What are the things that we need to do to ensure the regional and international community manages these changing strategic influences, which won't stop tomorrow, they'll continue for a period of time, indeed decades, I refer in that context to the rise of India.
You've got to have positive, constructive bilateral relationships between the main players, but you've also got to have a good regional and international framework where issues can be discussed frankly with the key people in the room at the same time. And I think we have got that architecture through the expanded East Asia Summit. But you know, people will look back at this period of time and they will come to regard the expansion of the East Asia Summit, including the United States and Russia, as being the single most important change in regional architecture that was effective to help us deal with the consequences of these changing strategic shifts.
In an entirely different context, the emergence of the G20, I think, will also prove to be a very good influence. Because again, you have the key players in the same room at the same time. An obvious deficiency of APEC is that India's not a member. And Australia would very much like to see India a member of APEC, just as Australia would very much like to see a reform to United Nations which reflects the modern world, not the 1940s and we have said consistently that in a reformed United Nations Security Council, we would see both India and Japan as permanent members of a reformed Security Council.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] this is the first lecture that's been in English and the first one I've completely understood, so for that I thank you.
STEPHEN SMITH: But can you understand Australian?
STEPHEN SMITH: I think you're right in a sense that I've answered that question previously. Firstly, good to see you from the Marines and [indistinct] Marines rotate through Darwin did some good work and enjoyed themselves they tell me. So it's good to see that enhanced practical cooperation of our own alliance.
The structures between Australia and Japan are very good as we seek strong bilateral relationships, tri-lateral strategic dialogue at multiple levels. Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and [indistinct] of our mutual ally, the United States and their close engagement in the expanding of the East Asia Summit. I think that provides more than enough of the trappings of what we need to help to manage those shifting strands that I have referred to.
And using our tri-lateral arrangements, using the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus to continue to press for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise, [indistinct]. All of that will add to mutual understanding, respect and trust, but also minimise the chance of any miscalculations. When President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard announced the rotation of the Marines and they had agreed to do this in November of last year. Some people saw that as sending a message to China and Australia did not see it in that way at all.
What was under remarked upon was that less than two weeks later Australia for the first time engaged in Sichuan Province in a humanitarian and disaster relief exercise with Australian Police Corp personnel and PMA personnel in exercise and Sichuan Province. And next year in Australia the second league of that exercise will be conducted in Australia. And this follows on from the line of firing exercise within the PLA Navy in the end of 2010. So we were also seeking to enhance our engagement with the PLA and with China. To grow the mutual respect and trust and to learn to understand each other. This is also as I said earlier very important for United States and China. And it is rather important [indistinct] and China and India and United States.
QUESTION: [Speaks Japanese]
STEPHEN SMITH: Well again a phrase I use when I answered earlier questions, in some respects all of the above. The more that we do together the more chance and prospect there is of use of personnel exchange, [indistinct] and the like. So as an Australian Defence Minister coming here it's very pleasing for me to see not just Japanese students but Australian students, Indian students, United States students, Indonesian students, German students and the like.
That's a very good thing and one of the things that we do in Australia is incomparable institutions, comparable training institutions we welcome defence laws, personnel and officers from other countries to do the same thing. Between Australia and Indonesia we have for many years welcomes Indonesian defence force personnel to Australia for education and training. We now have an Australian-Indonesia defence alumni. The last time they met in Jakarta they had 800 people there.
Nothing is more effective in the end than the people to people contacts. The capacity to pick up the phone, send a text or send an email to someone who you know because you studied with them, working on the exercise with them, did a joint operation. One of the issues that Japan is dealing with at the moment is the extent to which interprets the phrase collective defence. And how this authorises Japan to go on a range of exercises. Indeed this topic is something of a discussion amongst the five party presidential candidates in today's ballot.
So this is an issue for Japan to examine that may well have implications for the breadth of exercises which you now Japan engages in the future. The PSI you've mentioned. We regard the PSI as a very important exercise and issue. This year we're contributing an AWAC aircraft, we regard that as important. Just as we regard positive and constructive relationships between Japan and the Republic of Korea which has been very important.
And not just for the [indistinct] reasons but for a selfish Australian reasons because half of our economic engagement now is in North Asia, Japan, China, Republic of Korea. Over 50 per cent of our exports and 50 per cent of our trade. So good relations between Japan and China, Japan and Republic of Korea and Republic of Korea and China is very essential to us from an economic point. In terms of areas of potential growth in my paper I refer just briefly to the work that Japan has done in peace and stabilisation missions in the Pacific in the past. East Timor, the Solomon Islands. I'm also aware of the contribution Japan has made.
I think there is potential here. Particularly Japan and Australian cooperation on the projects in the Pacific from Australia's perspective in the South Pacific. I think that would be a good thing for Minister Morimoto and I to pursue. But I think the end betting or the engagement at any level at every activity is important. The Australian student who is here now will for the rest of his career have contacts out of this class which will prove to be useful into the future in Australia's national interest just as it will be in Japan's national interest. Comparable things with India, with United States, with Indonesia and the like are also very, very important. So that engagement builds the trust and the respect and the understanding. And in the end that is, if you like, the glue that puts all of the strategic considerations into place.