Japan, Australia hold security talks to discuss N. Korea threats

KYODO NEWS KYODO NEWS - Apr 20, 2017 - 17:01 | World, All

Japan and Australia convened ministerial security talks Thursday to discuss ways to strengthen coordination in response to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats and China's maritime assertiveness.

In the so-called "two-plus-two" talks in Tokyo, the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries are also set to confirm cooperation with their mutual security ally, the United States, in addressing the pressing security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, Japanese officials said.

Pyongyang has conducted a series of missile launches and may carry out another nuclear test. The United States is stepping up pressure on the reclusive state, saying all options, including military, are on the table.

While Japan does not have a security treaty with Australia, it has been deepening ties with the country.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, as well as their Australian counterparts, Julie Bishop and Marise Payne, took part in the meeting.

The ministers are also expected to agree to advance cooperation in maritime security, sharing concerns over China's maritime assertiveness in the South and East China seas, and step up joint training between Japanese and Australian defense forces.

Japan has been expanding the role of its Self-Defense Forces overseas following the enactment of controversial security legislation which has loosened the constraints imposed by the post-World War II pacifist Constitution.

Reflecting the changes brought about by the legislation, the two countries signed a revised bilateral pact in January to boost logistics cooperation between their defense forces, adding ammunition to supplies to be provided during joint exercises and on other occasions.

The Japanese parliament endorsed on April 14 the revised pact, called the Acquisition and Cross-servicing Agreement.

The two sides are also negotiating another agreement, the so-called reciprocal access agreement, to facilitate joint exercises and other activities by their defense forces when they visit each other's countries, eyeing to conclude it in 2017.

Ahead of the "two-plus-two" talks Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who met Bishop and Payne at his office, said cooperation between Japan and Australia is "extremely important in maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific" at the outset of the meeting, which was open to the media.

Bishop also shared the view, citing "the uncertain regional security environment."

"We believe it is more important than ever for Australia and Japan to stand up for what we defend and the values we share, including open and free trade and a strong security environment, and sharing those values with our ally the United States," she said.

Apr 20, 2017 | KYODO NEWS