Joint Press Conference with Japanese Foreign Minister, Katsuya Okada, Perth
21 February 2010
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you very much for turning up. Can I officially welcome Foreign Minister Okada to Perth, Western Australia and Australia, the second Japanese Foreign Minister to visit Perth and Western Australia.
Following on Foreign Minister Okada's meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday, this morning we had breakfast with Premier Barnett. We then laid a wreath with Premier Barnett at the Western Australian War Memorial and then this morning we've conducted our Foreign Ministers' bilateral dialogue.
We had extensive discussions covering the array of Australia and Japan's comprehensive economic, strategic and security partnership.
We have had an extensive discussion on nuclear issues, on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation and we are releasing a joint statement detailing the work which Australia and Japan will do together on these issues in the run-up to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May of this year.
We also agreed to continue to work closely together on the two nuclear issues of very grave concern, North Korea and Iran.
We also had an extensive discussion on whaling and safety at sea, but we'll leave those matters to questions.
Before calling upon Foreign Minister Okada to make some opening remarks, can I indicate to you that I cannot allow Foreign Minister Okada to miss his plane so we're out of here by 12.25 at the latest.
KATSUYA OKADA: [Remarks in Japanese, translated by an interpreter]
Today on the occasion of this Australian-Japan Joint Foreign Ministerial talks, we have been able to engage in a very significant exchange of views on a wide range of topics.
We were able to confirm that the Australia-Japan relationship has gone beyond that of economic complementarity and now is a strategic partnership.
I would also like to thank Foreign Minister Smith, for the very warm welcome he's given me to his home town of Perth, despite the fact that it's a weekend.
May I refer to three points arising from the discussions between the two Foreign Ministers today?
The first relates to the security of both countries.
We have agreed that we will liaise with a view to staging the third Australia-Japan Joint Foreign and Defence Ministers' consultations in Tokyo in the first half of this year.
We've also agreed in relation to ACSA, the Acquisition and Cross-Services Agreement, that we will seek to achieve, that this will be staged in the first half of March and we will seek to achieve early agreement on that.
We have also agreed that the involvement of the United States is important to the peace and prosperity of the region and have agreed to work to further strengthen cooperation between those three nations.
The second point I would like to address is we have prepared a Joint Australia-Japan Foreign Ministers' Statement on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
Foreign Minister Smith has already referred to that statement, so I'd like to try and avoid duplicating what he said and make a few points.
We have a common view that the ICNND report has a number of very useful and important recommendations.
And we have agreed that in terms of the efficacy of the report in both current and future policy development, that we will work on, have our experts working on progressing the findings of that report.
I don't have a lot of time. The comments I just made addressed paragraph four in the statement but I would ask you to focus in particular on paragraphs four, five and six.
Of course the other paragraphs are also important.
The third point I would like to address is that of whaling.
The position of Australia and Japan on the whaling issue is different but we are in agreement that we should continue with objective and constructive discussions with a view to a diplomatic solution in the IWC and between the two nations.
We also agreed on the point that the whaling issue should not jeopardise the Australia-Japan relationship which overall is an extremely good one and that both Governments will seek to proceed in that way.
We also agreed we're united in our strong condemnation of the violent protest activities of the Sea Shepherd.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you very much, Minister. I'm told that media have agreed amongst themselves one question from the Japanese side and one question from the Australian side so if we can go first to the Japanese side?
QUESTION: [In Japanese, translated by an interpreter]
I am from Yomiuri newspaper and I have a question for Foreign Minister Smith. My question is in relation to whaling.
I would make the comment that Australia and Japan have a different position on this issue. I think you're in agreement that we cannot condone the violent actions of the Sea Shepherd. If I might ask you, sir, in relation to that illegal activity, what, as the Australian Government, can specifically you do?
STEPHEN SMITH: The question is on whaling and the activities of the Sea Shepherd. Let me deal with both of those matters. Firstly we had a very good discussion about both of those issues.
It's quite clear that we have a disagreement on whaling. The Minister and I are frank about this and we had a full and frank conversation.
Very importantly, we agreed that whatever our difference on whaling, we will not allow this to jeopardise the strength and the growth of our bilateral relationship which, as I describe it, is a comprehensive economic, strategic and security partnership.
We've been working very hard over the last couple of years, both bilaterally and through the IWC, to see if we can resolve our disagreement.
But as I made clear to Foreign Minister Okada in the course of our conversations, Australia believes that time is running out.
The discussions before the International Whaling Commission small working groups have intensified.
The Australian Government has thought very carefully about this issue, and in the last week or so, has come to the conclusion that Australia will pursue before the International Whaling Commission a proposal which would see whaling in the Great Southern Oceans phased out over a reasonable period of time. And that is a position that we will put formally to the International Whaling Commission in the very near future, potentially as early as tomorrow.
So that is the position which I have put to Foreign Minister Okada.
We would hope that we could get agreement with that position, but as the Prime Minister and I have made clear in the past, if we can't get agreement to that position, then Australia would propose to seek to have that matter arbitrated internationally by Australia going to the International Court of Justice in an effort to stop whaling in the Great Southern Oceans.
On the Sea Shepherd very quickly, Australia respects the right of peaceful protest, but we do not respect any right for violent protest.
We condemn any action on the high seas which puts safety at sea at risk, and we have made this point clear from day one. That includes, for example, the throwing of projectiles from one vessel to another, and it includes people jumping on a vessel without consent and without lawful authority. And I have made it clear repeatedly that the primary responsibility for these matters lies with the nation states who are the flag states of the vessels.
In the case of incidents in the course of this season, they have primarily been New Zealand, or Dutch or Japanese vessels, which is why Australia, together with the Netherlands and New Zealand at the beginning of this whaling season made it clear that safety at sea was the highest priority.
A quick question on the Australian side from the ABC, I understand.
QUESTION: This is directed to Foreign Minister Okada. Are you committed to reaching a diplomatic solution on whaling, and surely, if legal action is taken, that will damage the Australian relations. And what assistance exactly are you seeking from the Australian Government to control the Sea Shepherd activities?
KATSUYA OKADA: [In Japanese, remarks translated by interpreter]
Thank you for the question. Well, first, the point I would make is that I think it's very unfortunate that the Australian side has indicated its intention to take action in an international court.
That is because it is our view that this matter should be discussed thoroughly within the context of the IWC or bilaterally.
Should court action become a reality, then Japan will seek to represent its case to the IWC, supporting the fact that its activities are legal and within the convention.
I have already made the statement that this issue should not be one that should result in damage to the Australia Japan relationship.
And to that end, it is important that the discussions that we engage in are objective.
And I would like to acknowledge the comments that Mr Smith has already made in relation to the activities of the Sea Shepherd.
There are a range of views on the issue of whaling but none of those views are justification for the type of violent activity in which the Sea Shepherd has been engaging.
I think any condoning of this type of illegal action is something that absolutely cannot be permitted.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister, thank you ladies and gentlemen.
I now have an obligation to get the Foreign Minister to Perth Airport so that he can get to the Diet tomorrow.
Foreign Minister, can I thank you very much for your visit to Perth.
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