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Thursday, 27 June 2013
Page: 7274

North Asia

Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Defence. Minister, how is the government strengthening its defence ties in North Asia and will the minister update the House on the increasing strategic importance to Australia of North Asia?

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (PerthMinister for Defence and Deputy Leader of the House) (14:28): I thank the member for her question and for her longstanding interest in national security matters. North Asia is, of course, extremely important to Australia. Some of our largest trading partners are there: China, Japan, the Republic of Korea. We also have some of our most important bilateral military-to-military and defence-to-defence relationships there and we have grown these relationships in recent years.

With China, for example, we are one of a very small number of countries that for the last 15 years has had a strategic dialogue with China at the level of Chief of the Defence Force and Secretary of the Defence Department. In the last two years we have engaged for the first time on mainland China with exercises with the PLA. We have also exchanged navy ship visits and engaged in live firing exercises. This is deeply important and is consistent with the strategic analysis you find in the 2013 white paper—that stability and security in North Asia is equally important for prosperity.

When it comes to Japan, we have substantially enhanced the defence-to-defence relationship and the strategic relationship that we have with Japan over the last decade. Now with Japan, for example, we do a 2+2 meeting in defence and foreign ministers' format. We also engage now at ministerial level with Japan at the trilateral level—Australia, Japan and the United States at both foreign ministerial and defence ministerial level. I conducted the second defence ministerial trilateral discussions at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore recently. I will be visiting Japan next week for what will be my eighth or ninth visit to Japan as a government minister, either foreign or defence, reflecting the strategic importance of our relationship with Japan.

As far as Korea is concerned, we have substantially grown our defence-to-defence and military-to-military engagement with the Republic of Korea. We have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Republic of Korea in the face of provocation from North Korea, the DPRK. Next week in Seoul, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, and I will conduct a 2+2, a foreign minister and defence minister strategic meeting, giving our relationship with the Republic of Korea the same national security and strategic architecture as with the 2+2 with the United States, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, and one other that currently escapes me. The 2+2 with Korea will be an important addition to the discussions that we have, consolidating and underpinning the importance of North Asia to our economic circumstances, our prosperity and our strategic— (Time expired)