Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles, Japanese Minister of Defense Kishi Nobuo, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, convened a Trilateral Defense Ministerial Meeting (TDMM) in Singapore on June 11 during the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit (2022 Shangri-La Dialogue) in Singapore.
This was the tenth meeting among the defense leaders of the three nations. The leaders exchanged views on the regional security environment and committed to work together to take concrete, practical steps to ensure the security, stability, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.
With the TDMM having affirmed this strategic alignment among the three leaders, the respective ministries plan to continue to enhance trilateral defense cooperation in the interest of regional security, buttressing the important work of their nations’ diplomats.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
The Ministers oppose coercion and destabilizing behavior that undermine a rules-based international system. They continue to stand against unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, as demonstrated by the united response against Russia’s unprovoked, unjust, and illegal aggression against Ukraine.
This aggression is a brazen violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, and the Ministers have reason to believe that Russia has committed egregious war crimes across Ukraine. They call on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces and cease its attack on Ukrainian territory, and to comply with the legally binding order of the International Court of Justice of March 16.
East China Sea
The Ministers are concerned about the increasingly severe security environment in the East China Sea, which undermines regional peace and stability. The Ministers are strongly opposed to any destabilizing or coercive unilateral actions that seek to alter the status quo and increase tensions in the area.
South China Sea
The Ministers share serious concerns about the situation in the South China Sea and oppose any unilateral attempts to change or influence the status quo through militarization of disputed features and coercive or intimidating actions.
They strongly object to China’s unlawful maritime claims and activities in the South China Sea that are inconsistent with international law, particularly as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They reaffirm the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal decision as final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute.
The Ministers emphasize the importance of the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, particularly as reflected in UNCLOS, including freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea. They also reaffirm their support for unimpeded lawful commerce.
The Ministers underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.
The Ministers reaffirm their unwavering support for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) unity and centrality and its importance in promoting positive norms and behavior, contributing to regional security, and building consensus and practical regional cooperation, including through the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM Plus).
The Ministers remain committed to international efforts to address the serious threats posed to the region by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). They condemn the DPRK’s destabilizing and unlawful nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development, including multiple intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
They underscore the importance of achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs). Their governments reaffirmed their commitment to enforce all relevant UNSCRs through cooperative efforts to deter and disrupt illicit ship-to-ship transfers and other illegal maritime activities. They call on the DPRK to immediately resolve the Japanese abductions issue, and cease its human rights violations.
Pacific Island Countries
The Ministers committed to deepening cooperation with Pacific Island countries to support a secure and prosperous Pacific region where sovereignty is respected, including by working with Pacific partners to support maritime security, respond to increased pressure from natural disasters, and address the impacts of climate change.
The three countries will continue expanding regional engagement and strengthening cooperation with their Pacific counterparts, particularly through inclusive Pacific-centric architecture such as the Pacific Islands Forum, as well as acknowledging the importance of other forums such as the South Pacific Defense Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM) and Japan Pacific Islands Defense Dialogue (JPIDD).
In recognition of the vital role of their respective forces in anchoring stability in the region, the Ministers confirmed a number of concrete meeting outcomes for the following areas:
Trilateral activities and exercises
- Increase and strengthen trilateral exercises to enhance interoperability and readiness.
- Build on the Asset Protection Mission (APM) for the Australian Defence Force by Japan Self-Defense Forces in 2021 by conducting the first APM during a trilateral activity.
- Enhance training opportunities which will be facilitated by the Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) andother alliance frameworks.
- Promote coordinated responses to regional disasters and crises, and deepen cooperation on maritime capacity building.
- Direct departments to conduct the necessary coordination to create a Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) framework to advance trilateral cooperation.
- Explore and pursue trilateral cooperation on advanced technologies and strategic capabilities.
- Effectively leverage trilateral mechanisms of information exchange.
- Deepen Indo-Pacific engagement with European and likeminded partners and allies in upholding the values of democracy, transparency, and respect for international norms which find home in all corners of the world.
They recognize that their respective bilateral relationships provide a strong bedrock for deepening the trilateral partnership and upholding regional peace and stability.
Acknowledging the strength found in collective actions and sharing the view that no individual country can achieve this alone, the Ministers look to expand cooperation, build inclusive partnerships with other like-minded countries, increase the scope of defense cooperation in new and innovative fields, and work broadly to ensure a free, open, and prosperous future for the Indo-Pacific region.
Photo credit: Chad McNeeley. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III addresses the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 11, 2022.