Minister for Defence - Speech to the Japan National Press Club, Tokyo

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Senator the Hon David Johnston

Minister for Defence

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12 June 2014

I’m delighted to be here to given the opportunity to address the Japan National Press Club, and to be in Tokyo more broadly for the 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers’ meeting.

Security and defence cooperation with Japan is an important pillar in our bilateral relationship and builds upon the 2007 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation.

In many ways, Australia and Japan are natural defence partners, given the values of democracy and the rule of law that we share and our common interests in a secure and stable region.

Australia understands the importance of building deep lasting defence links in the Asia Pacific, and encouraging the development of habits of defence dialogue and cooperation that underpin regional security.

We have invested in supporting the development of our defence relations in South East Asia and the Pacific through our Defence Cooperation Program.

We promote understanding through dialogue and enduring links between militaries in the region.

But in Japan we find a country that shares many of our capability platforms and technologies.

The Australia-Japan defence relationship is built on a shared history.  Nearly one hundred years ago the HIJMS Ibuki escorted Australian ships leaving from Albany carrying the first ANZAC forces to World War I.

This event will be marked in November when the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force sends a ship to participate in the Albany Commemorative Event.

It is a relationship built on shared experience.  Australia and Japan both contribute to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, with two Australian Defence Force personnel currently working with the Japanese Self Defense Force there. 

Earlier this year, along with other countries, Japan contributed two Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force P-3Cs, and a Japan Coast Guard Gulfstream aircraft to the search for the missing Malaysian Flight MH370 off the coast of Australia.  The search was based at the RAAF Base Pearce, in Western Australia.

Tragically, the search for that aircraft remains unresolved, but it demonstrated the ability of the Japanese Self Defense Force and the Australian Defence Force to work together on a matter of importance to not just our two countries, but also the broader region.

The Australia-Japan defence relationship is also one built on a shared purpose.  We understand the importance of maritime security and safety. 

We agree on the need to work together to build a rules-based regional architecture that supports the peaceful resolution of disputes.

We are both committed to closely coordinating and cooperating in the fields of regional humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and maritime security, together with other regional countries – a topic of my discussions with Minister Onodera when he and I met with US Defense Secretary Hagal ten days ago in Singapore.

It is for this shared history, experience and purpose that our Prime Ministers agreed to elevate our bilateral security and defence relationship to a new level when they met in April.

Australia supports Japan's recent efforts to re-examine its security and defence policies to contribute to enhanced regional peace and security.

These efforts could provide Japan with greater scope to work with other parties in the region in support of regional peace and security.

It will allow us to deepen our relationship with Japan – efforts that are already underway.

We already have a successful program of exercises focused on high-end skills development:

?         a bilateral maritime exercise, Nichi Gou Trident, and trilateral maritime Exercise, Pacific Bond.

?         a trilateral air defence exercise, Cope North Guam;

?         and just a few weeks ago, the inaugural trilateral ground exercise, Southern Jackaroo.

Prime Ministers Abbott and Abe announced in April that negotiations had commenced on a framework agreement to share defence science, technology and equipment.

Those negotiations have concluded, and we expect to sign that agreement when our Prime Ministers next meet.

Yesterday during the 2+2 Defence and Foreign Ministers meeting, Minister Onodera and I, along with Minister Bishop and her counterpart, Minister Kishida, discussed a number of proposals for further deepening the defence relationship. 

These proposals covered the full range of defence activities, including bilateral exercises, and technology cooperation and we will put them forward to our Prime Ministers for their consideration, as requested when they met in April.

We expect that these proposals will propel the Australia-Japan defence relationship to the level our Prime Ministers expect.

We have an opportunity to build on what is already a robust and valuable defence relationship.  I look forward to continuing to work with Japan to realise this.

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