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Transcript of joint press conference: 14 September 2012: Two plus two meeting; regional relationships; defence cooperation

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Minister for Defence - Defence Ministers and Q&A - Australia-Japan “two plus two” press conference

14 September 2012



DATE: 14 September 2012

TOPICS: Two plus two meeting, Regional relationships, Defence cooperation

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, like Foreign Minister Carr, can I welcome Foreign Minister Gemba and Defence Minister Morimoto to Australia for our fourth Australia Japan two-plus-two, but importantly our first in Australia itself. There’s also an opportunity today for Defence Minister Morimoto and I to conduct our first formal bilateral meeting as Defence Ministers. I was also very pleased to take up the Defence Minister’s invitation to visit Tokyo in the near future, and I’ll take that invitation up in the next few weeks. Not only this year do we mark the fourth two-plus-two meeting, historically we also mark the 50th anniversary of the modern Australia-Japan defence relationship. We saw 50 years ago in 1962, the visit to Sydney of four Japanese naval vessels to mark commencement of our modern defence relationship. Since that time, our practical defence cooperation has expanded, and expanded significantly in recent years.

Australia was very pleased, in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, to deploy four C-17 aircraft to help transport Japanese Self-Defense Force personnel and Japanese equipment throughout Japan, as part of the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise. In recent times, to further our practical cooperation we’ve been very pleased to agree the ACSA Agreement, and very pleased recently to agree to an information sharing agreement. Most importantly, in very recent times, we have considerably enhanced our peacekeeping cooperation, and Australia was very pleased to support the Japanese peacekeeping mission to South Sudan, a United Nations peacekeeping mission, and very pleased that two of our Australian Defence Force personnel are embedded with that Japanese contribution to United Nations peacekeeping.

We warmly welcome the recent changes to Japanese policy, which will enable Australia and Japan to have a conversation in the future about technology cooperation. And I was very pleased to receive from Minister Morimoto Japanese condolences on the loss of five Australian soldiers in Afghanistan recently, and take the opportunity to compliment Japan on the successful chairing of the recent Tokyo Conference dealing with development systems and capacity-building in Afghanistan.

And as the statement we’ve released today makes clear, we look forward to future cooperation over new and emerging issues, such as cyber and space. Finally, in addition to that work we do bilaterally, we are of course closely engaged firstly with our mutual allies in the United States, in our trilateral work, and secondly, in our region as active members of the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus Defence Ministers meeting in the East Asia Summit. So, we look forward to furthering our practical cooperation at a bilateral level, in the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus, and also trilaterally with the United States, as an ongoing contribution for peace, stability and prosperity in our region. Thank you. And I invite Minister Morimoto to make some remarks.

SATOSHI MORIMOTO: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: Just now we had a two-plus-two meeting, and now we have this press conference, but before that two-plus-two meeting we had our Defence Minister meeting with Defence Minister Smith. [indistinct] two-plus-two meetings, we always have a very constructive and substantial exchange, and I think that shows that Japan and Australia [indistinct]. Regarding the two-plus-two meeting, we already heard between - from Minister Carr and Minister Gemba, so from me, I’d like to make some additions, especially regarding the [indistinct] cooperation.

During my meeting with the Minister, we talked about bilateral cooperation items, such as international peace cooperation [indistinct], international security arrangements, cooperation in United Nations or Sudan missions, and we also talked about Japan, Australia and US trilateral cooperation. Especially, we talked about [indistinct] international peace cooperation. But in addition to that we agreed that we expand our range of [indistinct] cooperation [indistinct] technology cooperation with Australia.

SATOSHI MORIMOTO: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: And we also agreed that, as Minister Smith’s [indistinct], that taking the opportunity of the times of international conferences such as ASEAN Defence Ministers meeting [indistinct] as well as the EAS meeting, we gave some time to meet bilaterally between the Defence Ministers in Japan and Australia, and we’d like to have it more frequently.

SATOSHI MORIMOTO: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: So in summary, Japan-Australian bilateral relationship, and Japan and Australia’s ministers’ bilateral relationships are in cooperation with [indistinct].

BOB CARR: I invite a question from Mr Hiroto Yashira.

JOURNALIST: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: I have a question for Minister Carr, as well as Minister Smith, over China. [Indistinct] communication have been writing between Japan and China over some [indistinct], and also looking at the waters around Australia, particularly regarding the Pacific Island role on the part of China has become larger and conspicuous. So, how would you assess these situations as [indistinct] of Australia to [indistinct] bigger developments in China are reducing? And secondly, what are the things that Japan and Australia can jointly do to respond to these situations?

BOB CARR: Well, the Australian Government’s maintained a consistent stance that it does not

take a position on the various territorial claims in North Asia. We encourage the parties to

resolve disputes peacefully, consistent with international law. I said recently that when it

comes to Chinese interest in the Pacific, that we welcome their interest. We want

to cooperate with them on aid programs. We believe that as China gains experience the profile of its aid involvement, its aid activity will resemble more closely that of other OECD nations.

BOB CARR: Miss Sagamoto.

JOURNALIST: [Speaks Japanese]. My question addressed to Minister Gemba and to Minister Morimoto. Just this morning we heard that of the [indistinct] Senkaku Islands, the Chinese Government are said to have ensured that [indistinct]. How would you react to this development, and how do you [indistinct] bilateral [indistinct]?

KOICHIRO GEMBA: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: This morning, when I arrived at Sydney I received a first report that there was a incident involving the intrusion of the territorial - into the territorial waters by the Chinese side. And in light of the situation I sent an instruction to the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, and he actually lodged a protest to the Chinese ambassador serving in Tokyo after eight o’clock in Japanese time. And we lodged a strong protest, and also we made a strong case that the Chinese side should leave from the territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands.

KOICHIRO GEMBA: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: Since I’d like to make sure that all is right in our response regarding the situation, although I was planning to leave for Japan tomorrow, I changed my schedule so that I can get back to Japan earlier, leaving Australia tonight.

KOICHIRO GEMBA: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: And I’d like to underscore that we should never let the situation get escalated and we have strong hopes for the Chinese Government to respond to the situation in an appropriate and also a calm manner.

KOICHIRO GEMBA: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: And as I always repeat, I have the unwavering commitment to deepening the Japan-China mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interest by respecting the [indistinct] joint communiqués that we have already released.

KOICHIRO GEMBA: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPETER: And with regard to the content of my discussion with Foreign Minister Carr in the Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers Meeting, since this instance took place this morning, I myself explained the incident to the Foreign Minister. But with regard to the details of our conversation, I am not going to touch because as the conversation [indistinct] conversation [indistinct].

KOICHIRO GEMBA: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: And from now on how we [indistinct] here situation but we would not get surprised by the unexpected events surrounding the situation, therefore we would like to continue our communication with the

Chinese [indistinct] through a diplomatic channel in a robust way. And also, the issue involving the policing of the Japanese territorial waters which is under the jurisdiction of the Japanese Coast Guard and I have the high hopes that they are going to fulfil their commitment on this promise.

SATOSHI MORIMOTO: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: Well, Japan’s basic stance on this issue has been fully [indistinct] by Minister Gemba [indistinct]-

SATOSHI MORIMOTO: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: There is no [indistinct] Japanese territorial waters - [indistinct] historically speaking and also under international law. So [indistinct] regret that the Japanese - Chinese Government vessels have entered into Japan’s territory.

SATOSHI MORIMOTO: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: Foreign Minister Gemba said that Japanese Government responds to these concerns currently and we will [indistinct] Japanese Defense Forces [indistinct] continue to [indistinct] any information that we share with[indistinct] system.

BOB CARR: Some questions from Australia.

QUESTION: Minister Gemba, the stationing of US Marines in Darwin for part of the year, is this [indistinct] appreciated in Japan as helping share the burden of hosting allied forces in the Pacific? And Minister Morimoto, under the Defence Technology Transfer agreement, have you and Mr Smith discussed the possible access to the design of your Soryu class submarines for the Australian Navy?

KOICHIRO GEMBA: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: In the joint statement released the other - the discussion part of the Two-plus-Two, Japan/US Administrative Conference with - in April we have made it clear that Japanese [indistinct] positively values and also welcomes the rotation and also the stationing of the US Marines in Australia.

SATOSHI MORIMOTO: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: Regarding the question that [indistinct] military cooperation between Japan and Australia, we talked about this at the recent ministerial meeting and we have - we will talk about this cooperation in the future in a more specific - or in a specific manner. And as Minister Smith just mentioned that he is - Mr Smith has promised to visit Tokyo soon, so I think that given this opportunity, this kind of cooperation can be also discussed. Regarding the submarines, there was no discussion of any specific issues such as submarines between the [indistinct].

STEPHEN SMITH: I might just add on the Marines in Darwin, part of the conversation we had was me advising Minister Gemba and Minister Morimoto that since the announcement of the rotation of US Marines on a six monthly basis through Darwin, one of the very positive things that had emerged had been interest from other countries to conduct exercises as a result of the presence of the Marines and the Australian Defence Force personnel in Darwin.

Some people may be aware that next year we will conduct with the United States and Australian Defence Force personnel [indistinct] with Indonesia a trilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise, and President Yudhoyono has publicly invited other East Asian Summit countries to either take part or observe in that or comparable exercises. So, the potential is there as a result of the Marine rotation through the Northern Territory to see through our region, not just bilateral exercises between Australia and the United States, but also trilateral and multilateral exercises as a result of that presence.

So far as the technology cooperation is concerned, as I said earlier, we welcome very much Japan’s changed policy here- which does open up the potential for a conversation about these matters into the future. As Minister Morimoto has indicated, our discussion was general; it did not go into the specifics of any particular platform or platforms generally, but this is a matter which Australia and Japan will pursue into the future, as Australia very much regards itself as a like-minded country with Japan, which of course is one of the [indistinct] set for in the new Japanese policy so far as export of technology or technology cooperation is concerned.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct]. The question from [indistinct] to Foreign Minister Gemba, [indistinct] World War II Japan has been transformed from a war machine to a modern nation of holding a peace constitution

[indistinct] Japan seems to be more aggressive [indistinct]. Recently, Japan has been involved in [indistinct] with its World War victims like China and South Korea. So, does that mean that Japan is experiencing a kind of transformation of its foreign policy to be a more aggressive nation or does it mean Japan has rallied to abandon the peace constitution? Thank you.

KOICHIRO GEMBA: [Speaks Japanese].

INTERPRETER: I believe that the question that was raised on the [indistinct] that Japan [indistinct] and I’d like to underscore that is not the case. And naturally I’d like to underscore that the Japanese [indistinct] also must protect its territorial land border as well as the airspace, and I believe that it is needless to say to highlight this point.

BOB CARR: Thank you very much.