Underlining Australia’s commitment to Indo-Pacific

On Sunday I will travel to Japan, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines to advance bilateral defence engagement and discuss regional security challenges.

As outlined in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, our region is in the midst of the most consequential strategic realignment since World War II.

I will use my visit to deepen bilateral engagement with these important partners and friends, who share our vision of an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

Our partnerships with regional countries have a long history and we are focused on further strengthening these relationships through expanding defence diplomacy, cooperation and capacity building activities.

Increased engagement will focus on working with our partners to shape an Indo-Pacific region that is stable, secure and sovereign and where international rules and norms are respected.

In Japan, I will hold my first Defence Ministers’ Meeting with my recently-appointed counterpart, Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi, to set the direction for the next phase of bilateral defence and security cooperation in our Special Strategic Partnership. Our discussions will centre on our joint efforts to address strategic challenges.

Singapore is a close and highly capable defence partner for Australia. In Singapore I will meet with my counterpart, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen. We will review our substantial defence engagement, which has continued during the pandemic, and discuss how our security cooperation can continue to make a positive impact on the region’s stability and security under our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

My visit will provide an important opportunity to mark the 30th anniversary of Singapore’s military training in Australia.

In Brunei, I will meet with Second Minister of Defence Pehin Halbi, ahead of Brunei’s year as ASEAN Chair in 2021.

Our discussions will centre around positive developments in the bilateral defence relationship, and important regional issues, including our co-chairmanship of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Military Medicine.

I will conclude my visit in the Philippines, where I will meet with Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

We will discuss our respective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, our Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program, and progressing our defence industry engagement.

All aspects of this visit will be conducted with strict adherence to safety and health measures to mitigate COVID-19 risks. Upon return to Australia, I will follow all health requirements, including 14 days’ quarantine.

Throughout the trip, our delegation will adhere to COVID-19 measures in each country while following protocols that minimise the risk of infection and spread.

These will include: social distancing; use of personal protective equipment, particularly face masks; sound hygiene practices; and the avoidance of vehicular travel where possible.

I am grateful to the governments of Japan, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines for the conscientious COVID-19 measures put in place to facilitate a safe visit.

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