The defense ministers of Japan and Australia affirmed their commitment Wednesday to oppose unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China seas through closer ties amid Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in the region, the Japanese Defense Ministry said.
Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and his counterpart, Peter Dutton, also “strongly condemned” North Korea’s test-firing in March of two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan in its first such launch in a year in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, according to the ministry.
Their first talks since Dutton took his post in March, held over the phone, followed a joint exercise, also involving the United States and France, from May 11 to 17 in waters off the coast of Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan.
The drill was conducted as Tokyo is seeking to deepen defense cooperation beyond the United States, its long-standing security ally, at a time when Beijing’s growing military presence in the East and South China seas poses concerns for surrounding countries. Such concerns grew strong particularly after China enacted a new maritime security law in February to enable its coastguard ships to fire on foreign vessels in waters Beijing deems its territory.
The two ministers also vowed to step up their trilateral defense cooperation with the United States in a bid to realize their initiative toward a free and open Indo-Pacific, the Japanese ministry said.
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