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Address at the Japan National Press Club, Tokyo.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS HON STEPHEN SMITH, MP

Speech Notes for

The Hon Stephen Smith MP

Minister for Foreign Affairs

At the

Japan National Press Club

1 February 2008, Tokyo

(Check Against Delivery)

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Introduction

It is a great pleasure to be here today on my first visit to Japan as Foreign Minister.

The depth and intensity of the modern relationship between Australia and Japan are truly striking. Japan has been Australia’s biggest export market and a key economic partner for over 40 years - and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Today, Japan accounts for around a fifth of our global goods and services exports. This nation buys 90 percent of our LNG - most of that from my home state of Western Australia.

But there is much more to the relationship than trade and investment.

Japan is our key strategic partner in Asia - the only country in Asia with which we have a formal 2+2 foreign and defence strategic dialogue.

And our people-to-people and cultural ties are rich and vital. Australia has the highest proportion of its population of any nation studying Japanese language - while around 18 000 Japanese students are studying in Australia. These figures bode well for the future of our friendship.

Today, I want to take the opportunity to outline to you the new Australian Government’s foreign policy approach and our priorities. I want to highlight our strong commitment to the relationship with Japan - both now and into the future.

Australia’s Global Interests and Regional Priorities

In today’s highly interconnected world, Australia’s interests are global. Our economy and society are deeply integrated into world markets. Australians today are living, working and doing business from Europe and the Middle East to Asia, the Americas and the Pacific. Our prosperity is sustained by today’s open and secure global order; it serves our interests well.

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That is why our alliance with the United States remains the bedrock of our foreign and security policy. Since the end of the Second World War, the global order, backed by the United States has effectively secured and advanced Australia’s national interests.

But the world is changing. Since the end of the Cold War new threats and challenges have emerged. The Australian Government is committed to developing and strengthening our alliance to respond effectively to these. We look to do our part with the United States and other key strategic partners, in particular Japan, to deal with the new challenges, notably the threat we all face today from terrorism and extremism.

In facing complex global challenges we also believe a strong commitment to the multilateral system and the United Nations is vital.

Australia has a long history of involvement in and support for the multilateral system, including for the United Nations. Many of the biggest problems we face in the world today: countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; mitigating climate change; maintaining free and open markets and preventing pandemics require genuinely global cooperation. We believe that a strong rules-based international system dedicated to tackling these issues is firmly in our national interest. So our Government is committed to making sure that Australia plays a more active multilateral role in future, including through the United Nations.

While our interests are global and we are determined to strengthen Australia’s multilateral engagement, there is no doubt our key foreign policy priority will be to strengthen our relationships in the Asia-Pacific region.

Our bilateral relationships and regional engagement in the Asia-Pacific are based on a shared vision of a peaceful, prosperous and stable neighbourhood.

That is why we will continue to be actively involved in regional bodies like APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit. It is why we put such a strong emphasis on our bilateral relations with the countries of the region. And it is why we are committed to helping the Pacific Island Countries get themselves on a solid footing and building a stronger sense of shared community with them.

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Australia and Japan: natural partners

In responding to the realities of the world today, Japan and Australia are natural partners - globally and in the Asia-Pacific Region

As economically advanced democracies, we see eye to eye on many of the key global challenges. We are both committed US allies, and our Trilateral Strategic Dialogue is helping to strengthen three-way cooperation.

Australia’s relationship with Japan is a key underpinning of our relations with Asia and the Pacific. We have regular high-level meetings between our Prime Ministers and senior ministers, including the joint meeting of Defence and Foreign Ministers and active policy dialogues between senior officials and agencies across our two governments.

The Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation provides a framework for us to work together on common global and regional security challenges. I look forward to continuing our close cooperation on resolving the North Korean nuclear problem. We fully share Japan’s demand for a full accounting of the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.

We are negotiating a free trade agreement that could help to link our economies even closer together in future. And we work closely together on important global issues like climate change.

Australia and Japan have worked closely together to develop and build the regional architecture which is fundamental to the long-term peace and prosperity of this part of the world. We both worked closely to establish APEC. We are partners in its ongoing work and look forward to Japan’s chairmanship in 2010. We also work closely together in the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit. We continue to share a vision of a cooperative and more integrated region.

We welcome Japan’s contribution to the development of the Pacific Island countries, both as a major aid donor and regional partner with us in support of good governance.

Australia and Japan also cooperate closely in the United Nations. But I believe that the United Nations needs reform to be more effective and remain relevant in the period ahead.

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And the UN Security Council needs to better reflect the emerging realities of global power and politics. That is why Australia supports Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council as well as its bid for a non-permanent Security Council seat in 2009.

Our relationship is strong and it has many elements that bind it together. But that does not mean that we always agree on every issue. Sometimes even close friends have different views.

Whaling is one such issue for Australia and Japan. The Australian community is strongly opposed to whaling. The Australian Government has made clear its opposition to whaling. We believe that whaling should be stopped.

But I also want to make it clear that our opposition to whaling does not change our view of the importance of our overall relationship with Japan.

Conclusion

In a changing world both Japan and Australia have fundamental and shared interests in sustaining an open, prosperous and secure global and regional environment.

That is why the new Australian Government sees building even stronger relations with Japan as a top priority.

When we look around the globe today, we see Japan as a natural friend and close partner.

Thank you.

END