Sasakawa Peace Foundation Speech

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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9 December 2022

Many thanks to Dr Sunami for the warm introduction, and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation for hosting me today. 

It’s good to be among friends and here in Japan this week with my dear friend, Foreign Minister Penny Wong, for the tenth Australia-Japan 2+2 consultations with Minister Hamada and Minister Hayashi. 

My first international visit as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia was to Tokyo, so this is my second visit in six months.

And my meeting with Minister Hamada today will be my third ministerial meeting with Japan, following the Shangi-La Dialogue in Singapore and the Trilateral Defence Ministers’ meeting in Honolulu in October. 

This tempo is no accident. It reflects the priority Australia places - and I place personally - on our relationship with Japan. 

Even more, it reflects the extraordinary evolution of this relationship over two decades. 

Consider the two key bilateral developments in this year. In January, Australia and Japan signed the Reciprocal Access Agreement, Japan’s first effective status of forces agreement with another country, other than its alliance partner the United States. 

This treaty will not only streamline our ability to deploy to each other’s territory, it signals our intention to increasingly do so. 

Then in October this year, Prime Minister Albanese and Prime Minister Kishida signed the updated Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, which will act as a compass for our security relationship and allow us to refine the scope and objectives of our operational cooperation. 

It also includes a commitment to consult on contingencies that may affect our sovereignty and regional security interests, and to consider measures in response. 

This is a serious commitment we have made to each other. We describe Japan as an indispensable partner. And this is exactly the way we would describe our alliance partner: the United States.

It will see us deepen the work already underway, building seamless interoperability and communication. It is a big job for both of us- but crucial for the stability of our region. 

These two agreements now give Japan and Australia the bilateral architecture to ensure our defence and security cooperation is commensurate with our strategic alignment. 

You will see this in the years ahead:

In the increasing interoperability of our defence forces. 

In greater joint training, including trilaterally with the United States in Northern Australia: something I spoke about with my US counterpart, Secretary Austin, in Washington DC earlier this week, and to which we both reaffirmed our commitment. 

In deepening cooperation on advanced capabilities in areas such as undersea warfare and integrated air and missile defence. 

And through expanded regional cooperation, such as our crucial work together this year in humanitarian and disaster relief in the Pacific. 

The logic of this is inarguable. 

Japan and Australia share a profound commitment to democracy, open economies, and free societies. 

We are Indo-Pacific island states and trading nations, that rely on rules and norms that we cannot alone enforce. 

When we look out at a much tougher strategic environment, we come to similar conclusions: that preserving our security and prosperity will require greater ambition to shape our region’s strategic trajectory by our own actions, rather than resign ourselves to a great power dominance. 

This is not just a consensus of the Australian and Japanese national security communities. 

Recent polling by Sydney University’s US Studies Centre underlined increasing popular support for Japanese-Australian security ties. 

I was struck by the fact that over 60% of voters in both countries support the idea of a security alliance. 

Yet at another level, this is no surprise. 

On the first anniversary of the Great Sendai Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, the Australian parliament conducted a condolence session in solidarity with Japan. 

As I listened to one speech after another, I was moved by the way successive parliamentarians spoke about their personal connections with Japan. 

After more than 70 years of business and educational ties, there are now strong personal friendships that have formed between many Australians and Japanese. 

The truth is, today, our bilateral relationship is built upon deep people to people connections. 

And so it is natural that public opinion in both our countries should support the deepest of security relationships between Australia and Japan. 

Strong leadership, too, has been essential in our relationship. 

Prime Minister Albanese and Prime Minister Kishida demonstrated that leadership when signing the Joint Declaration this year. 

Deeper ties have long been a project shared by both sides of politics in Canberra, and across successive governments in Tokyo.

And it is important to acknowledge the particular contribution of the late Abe Shinzo. 

It is hard to overstate the former prime minister’s role in not only building Japan’s strategic partnership with Australia, but also his influence on how democracies should respond to the tougher world we face. 

Mike Green, in his terrific new book ‘Line of Advantage’ charts how Abe and his team, which of course included then foreign minister Kishida, recast Japanese grand strategy in maritime and cosmopolitan terms: the free and open Indo-Pacific; solidarity with the region’s other maritime democracies; and championing inclusive trade and investment rule making. 

This strategy also involved a rethink of Japan’s military role, by reinvesting in the US alliance and revising Japan’s longstanding ban on collective self-defence. 

This decision enabled joint military training and operations with the United States and Australia, leading to Japan undertaking its first asset protection mission for Australia late last year - the first time Japan has provided military asset protection to a nation other than the United States. 

Prime Minister Kishida has made clear his determination to fundamentally reinforce Japan’s defence capabilities within the next five years, and secure the substantial increase of its defence budget needed to effect it.

Importantly, this strategy has not preferenced military power over diplomatic, economic and normative tools. Instead, this strategy has understood that national security isn’t just dependent on deterrence, but on building regional architecture that embeds powerful incentives for countries to cooperate. 

As Prime Minister Kishida undertakes a wholesale renewal of Japan’s National Security Strategy, National Defence Program Guidelines and Mid Term Defence Plan - we see Japan continuing this important work by building its capabilities to underwrite a global rules-based system essential to our shared prosperity and security. 

This approach has been deeply influential in Canberra. Not least because it positioned Japan as one of the principal defenders of the international liberal order, encouraging Australia to work more closely with it.

As Japan renews its key strategic settings, Australia is doing the same. 

Over the coming months, the Australian government will be taking a series of steps to ensure our defence and security settings respond to the environment around us.

The first of these has been announced this week in the United States, where Foreign Minister Wong and I met with our counterparts, Defense Secretary Austin and Secretary of State Blinken. 

There, Australia and the United States announced we will be stepping up our cooperation under the bilateral Force Posture Initiatives first established by the Labor government of Julia Gillard in 2011. 

Crucially, this will involve expanding the rotational presence of US capabilities in Australia across air, land and maritime domains, including rotations of the US Bomber taskforce, fighters, and future US Navy and US Army capabilities.

And, consistent with the recent Australia, Japan and United States Trilateral Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Honolulu, we agreed to invite Japan to increase its participation in Force Posture Initiatives in Australia. 

In the first quarter of next year, I will make public the Government’s response to the Defence Strategic Review, commissioned by the Albanese Government in its first 100 days. 

This review will recommend how the Australian Defence Force will recalibrate its military capabilities, force structure and posture for more effective deterrence, to enable the Australian Defence Force to hold potential adversaries’ forces at risk, at distance, and increase the calculated cost of aggression against Australia and its interests. 

And early next year the Prime Minister and I will also announce, with the UK and US, the optimal pathway for developing a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability under AUKUS. 

Nuclear powered submarines will be an essential part of Australia’s naval capability, providing an unmatched strategic advantage. 

This capability will revolutionise the potency of the ADF, dramatically change our strategic posture and enhance Australia’s sovereignty - making us a more capable defence partner for our allies. 

AUKUS will also drive the development of other advanced capabilities, allowing our three countries to pursue advantage in undersea and electronic warfare, hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, advanced cyber and quantum technologies and artificial intelligence. 

AUKUS is a capability and technology partnership; one which we hope will form part of a broader network Australia seeks to build, in which Japan is central. 

My intent is to grow defence industry integration with Japan: bilaterally, through our trilateral mechanisms with the United States, and, when ready, via our advanced capabilities work in AUKUS as well. 

This is an incredibly ambitious agenda. But the world is changing and so we must respond. 

Recently my Canadian counterpart, deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland observed that when Vladimir Putin ordered his tanks across the Ukrainian border in the early hours of February 24th, he brought a brutal end to a three decade-long era in geopolitics. 

The post-Cold War era - a period of democratic expansion, unprecedented integration of global trade and investment, and, we assumed, the end of ideological confrontation - is now over.

We don’t yet know what era will take its place. Instead, there will be a contest among states to shape the structures of the 21st century world. 

This is what we are seeing play out now, in Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. 

As we condemn this immoral and illegal invasion in the strongest possible terms, we must also make sure such a conflict does not repeat, particularly within our own region, which is now at the centre of global strategic competition. 

Navigating this more complex period will require wise, sober and responsible statecraft. 

We need to do more to deter the risk of conflict, while also reassuring states that conflict is never the only option. In the midst of great power competition there is a pressing need for the stabilising influence of guardrails and dialogue. 

But governments must also make the investments necessary to give their words strategic weight. 

Japan and Australia’s robust support of Ukraine’s defence is one such example. It illustrates that likeminded states will not tolerate aggression even on distant shores.

Australia and Japan have led the region’s response to Putin’s invasion and the growing solidarity between Europe, NATO and the Indo-Pacific. 

Australia’s increasing investment in defence capabilities is another example. It is a prudent and necessary response to the arms build up we see occurring in the Indo-Pacific. 

One of the most consequential features of our region today is the scale of China’s military power. It has engaged in the largest military build up since World War Two. And it is occurring without transparency or reassurance to the region of China’s strategic intent.

This is the most significant factor shaping the strategic landscape in which Australia, and Japan exist. 

And to be clear, Australia and for that matter the world, expects Beijing to act in accordance with international rules and norms. 

Australia notes that China has said it has not provided Russia military equipment for its illegal invasion of Ukraine. But we call on China to go further, to condemn Russian threats to use nuclear weapons and call for an end to the invasion of Ukraine, a clear violation of the UN Charter’s core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

Now, I’ve said many times since we assumed government just over six months ago that Australia is looking to stabilise relations with China. 

We welcome the recent meeting between Prime Minister Albanese and President Xi during the November G20 Summit. And I am pleased that two weeks ago in Siem Reap, China and Australia agreed to reactivate longstanding defence talks. Australia is committed to resolving longstanding differences through dialogue, and investing in inclusive regional architectures such as ASEAN - to ensure we can continue to protect our collective security and prosperity. 

But we must also deal frankly with the risks we face. And that is what Australia is doing. 

The way forward is not obvious. 

Over the last decade China has sought to shape the world around it in a way that we have not seen before, and that gives rise to challenges for both Australia and Japan. 

Yet at the same time, for both Australia and Japan, China is our largest trading partner. 

What is clear is the need to work closely with friends. 

And when it comes to friends for Australia, Japan stands in the front row. 

It is also clear that Japan and Australia have never been more strategically aligned. 

Indeed, I find it hard to think of a country with whom that statement, for us, is more true. 

And so the partnership between our two countries is now being elevated to an unprecedented level. 

Like Japan, Australia does not place a premium on military power as a tool of strategy. 

Australia will place its primary focus on diplomacy, economic openness and upholding rules. Working with our regional partners in the Pacific, South East Asia, North East Asia, and the Quad.

But we are also resolved to have the capability that contributes to a sustainable balance of military power, so that no country judges the benefits of conflict might outweigh the risks. 

For decades the Australia-Japan diplomatic partnership has quietly been a key platform for much that’s happened in the region. 

We cooperated deeply on the Cambodian peace process; the formation of APEC; the response to the Asian financial crisis; on the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and on elevating the Quad and focussing it on delivering for the region. 

But going forward, this partnership will be key to defence and security - for Japan and Australia, but also for the region and the world. 

We are working together on the emerging realm of economic security: supply chains, critical minerals, rare earths, critical infrastructure protection and our crucial energy partnership. 

Indeed Australia is providing over a third of Japan’s energy with great opportunities to jointly drive the regional clean energy transition.

We are also working on ensuring our region never slides into confrontation. 

This effort will require cooperation among many states, but the Japan-Australia security partnership can serve as a catalyst. We have all benefited from the United States’ network of alliances. But now we are poised to build the Japan-Australia relationship as a powerful force in its own right. 

Australia’s relationship with Japan is foundational.

The Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation and the Reciprocal Access Agreement mean we now have the roadmap to take our partnership to a very different place - a better place. Our partnership is becoming indispensable.

Today I am personally committed to working with my good friend, Minister Hamada, in the service of peace and stability in our region, for an Indo-Pacific where peace is the norm, sovereignty thrives and prosperity is the dividend for all our peoples.

Thank you. 


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