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IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2017 Second Plenary Session
Question and Answer Session
Tomomi Inada, Minister of Defense, Japan
Marise Payne, Minister of Defence, Australia
Sylvie Goulard, Minister for Armed Forces, France

As Delivered

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

We will now open up the floor to short, crisp questions. I have six already on my list, and I think what I will do is I will take about six or seven and then come back to the panel. So the first on my list was from Canada, Paul Evans.

Professor Paul Evans, Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia

Thank you, John, for the opportunity. The theme of the three ministers today was rules-based order – we must have heard the phrase 25 times – and I would like to ask a question about how far we can trust the United States in sustaining that rules-based order globally, but also regionally. Last night, Prime Minister Turnbull made the important observation that the US is not withdrawing from the international order that it has anchored for much of the last 75 years, but Mr Turnbull emphasised that he feels that the United States wants to engage that international order in a new kind of way. In light of the withdrawal from the Paris Accord, NATO, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), I am led to the following observation: that in God we can trust, in Secretary of Defense Mattis we can trust, but can we trust Mr Trump's America First going forward? Unilateralism and exceptionalism can be as corrosive to a rule of law for all as other kinds of threats that we are discussing.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much. I will go next to Nur’Asyura Salleh from Brunei.

Nur’Asyura Salleh, PhD Candidate, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies

Hi. The US withdrawal from multilateral frameworks such as the TPP and the Paris Agreement has left a vacuum for other major powers to take the lead. Do you see your respective countries taking a larger responsibility in the regional architecture in order to maintain this rules-based order? Thank you.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you. From France and the IISS, Pierre Noël.

Dr Pierre Noël, Senior Fellow for Economic and Energy Security, IISS

Thank you very much, John. My question is to the three ministers. Thank you for the very good speeches. I am somewhat puzzled by this idea of a rules-based order. I want to ask the three of you if you really believe that international orders are based on rules only? I had gathered from my studies that they were based on a tension between rules on the one hand and a balance of power on the other hand. What we are witnessing today is a once-in-a-century change in the balance of power. What are we to make of this? Can we really limit our strategic thinking to reaffirming that the status quo will be defended and that the rules-based order, so-called, has benefited everyone and therefore should be in place forever? Can we really ignore the change in the balance of power, or are we prepared to really think and act strategically in Asia to preserve the peace?

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much for that, if I understood it well, call for realpolitik. From Malaysia, Jin Kiat Khoo.

Khoo Jin Kiat, Senior Reporter, Defense and Diplomatic Affairs, The China Press

Thank you for taking my question. My question is to the Japan Defense Minister. In order to enhance your presence to this region, is there any plan to increase your summer visit [JL1] to ASEAN countries? Thank you.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you. From China, Ye Zhang.

Senior Captain Zhang Ye, Head, World Naval Research Office, People’s Liberation Army, China

Thank you. My question is also for the Japanese Defense Minister. Thank you for your speech, and in your speech you said you are deeply concerned about the situation in South China Sea and you gave us a gloomy picture of the situation in terms of its rules and orders. But I would like to tell another story, because we all know that the situation in this area is much better than it was at this time last year. Last month, the framework of the Code of Conduct (CoC) has been approved by China and ASEAN countries and it is the fruit of the joint effort of China and the ASEAN countries and is also a very important step towards the development of the rule and order in this region. So, my question is, could you make some comments on this progress and could you make some evaluation of its contribution to the rule and order in this region? Thank you.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you. Last question in this round – but I will go back to the floor after the panellists have replied – is from Jinho Park of South Korea.

Jinho Park, Chief of Staff to Baek Seung Joo, National Assembly of the Republic of Korea

Thank you, Mr Chairman. My question is to Japanese Minister Inada. In resolving North Korean nuclear problems, trilateral strategic cooperation among Japan and Korea, the US has been limited or not enough. If you agree, I am wondering about your opinion in regard to why it has been so and how to fix the problem, why the new ROK administration somehow has a different understanding of the Korea–Japan relationship and Korea–US relationship compared with former governments in Seoul.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much. I will return now to the panel and I might take them in the same order in which they spoke, so Minister Inada, Minister Payne and then Minister Goulard. Minister Inada, please.

Tomomi Inada, Minister of Defense, Japan

Thank you for your questions, which covered a wide range of topics.

Firstly, there were questions on whether the US can be relied upon with regard to international order and, in the light of the US withdrawal from the TPP and now from the Paris Agreement, to what extent further maintenance of the rules-based international order may be advantageous in this region and also whether that is something that will keep on changing.

As I said in my speech, the reason why we must build this rules-based region is not only that of course our prosperity was built on this order, but when considering long-term interests rather than getting caught up with short-term interests – which are not one person’s or one country’s or one region‘s – we think that the maintenance of this order is necessary in the sense that it provides a region where there are opportunities for prosperity for all countries, regardless of power or size.

Furthermore, various worries over the new administration in the USA have been voiced, but when I met Secretary Mattis in the early stages, and our Prime Minister met and had discussions with President Trump several times, conviction not only in the security of this region, but also the maintenance of the order, was established through various discussions. In the turbulent security environment in which we, Japan, find ourselves at the moment, we wish to strengthen our own defence capability and furthermore develop the Japan–US alliance with the new administration. Furthermore, we want to cooperate with ASEAN countries that share our common values and which want to build prosperity and peace through order, and we want to send the message that, when looking in the long term, unilateral changes based on force are in the best interests of no country.

There were conversations and questions about ASEAN and visits to ASEAN. As I said in my speech, last year we announced in the Vientiane Vision that we want to assist the peace and stability of this area through capacity-building and interaction with people and other various interactions in the ASEAN region. I personally want to make as many visits to ASEAN countries as possible.

There were also questions about what the establishment of the CoC framework – a Code of Conduct relating to the South China Sea – means in relation to what I said in the speech about my concerns regarding the South China Sea. We very much welcome the fact that China and the ASEAN countries are talking about this framework, the South China Sea CoC. I mentioned in my speech that we welcome the CoC framework and also any dialogue that resolves various rivalries and disagreements peacefully based on a firm order, but not all of the specific parts of the framework are clear. It is important and we expect that this dialogue is carried out based on international law and on the prerequisites of non-militarisation and self-control.

Next, on the threat posed by North Korea, the nuclear threat, the missile threat for which US–Japan and Korea–US–Japan cooperation is necessary: absolutely, of course. Among these, I think there were some questions on how relations between Japan and North Korea – and, since the new administration has been formed, between Japan and South Korea – will turn out, but it is not yet clear what form of policy the new administration will take toward Japan. Since the Abe administration was formed, irreversible and final agreements have been reached on any serious problems that lie between Japan and South Korea, such as the comfort-women issue. Japan has already implemented everything that had to be done according to this agreement, and this agreement between countries – established between the Abe administration and the previous South Korean administration – is one of the major points that sets the conditions for building better Japan–South Korea relations going into the future, which we are sure will be indispensable for the stability of the region.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you. Minister Payne.

Marise Payne, Minister of Defence, Australia

Thank you very much, John, and thank you for those questions. It is true to say that observations about the rules-based global order and the rule of law were predominant in our remarks, but that’s because as diligent defence ministers, when asked to address the topic Upholding the Rules-Based Regional Order, we confirmed that we were addressing that topic.

Can I just make a couple of comments, Chair, if I may, about perhaps the first three or so questions in terms of the changing nature of relationships given a changed administration in the US, the engagement that our respective nations might have in the frameworks and the regional architecture that exists here in this part of the world, and whether or not the international structures are based on rules only. Is there not, I believe was the question, a tension between rules and the balance of power? I think one of the observations that has been made in Australia in particular when discussing a new administration in the United States is that there is much more to our relationship, much more to our history, much more to our engagement, than the individual who occupies the White House, the individual who occupies, in Australia’s case, the Lodge. Built over many decades, the depth of the Australia–US alliance – and then, to project that across the region, the alliance and the engagement that the US has built within our region – is much more than that built on individuals.

My old friend Michael Fullilove asked the Secretary of Defense a question earlier this morning and indicated that he might perhaps be the hope of the side – certainly a good foundational point in the relationship. What we have found as ministers and as nations in our interactions with the administration since the election last year is that the security relationship person to person, military to military, defence to defence, administration to administration, is solid. What we have to recognise, I think, is that the issues we have addressed today about the operation of the rule of law, about the rules-based global order, are foundational issues. They are foundational issues about the fabric that holds us together. In fabric, in weaving, you have a weft and a warp. The threads run horizontally and vertically and they weave together to give the fabric its strength. They are very different; each thread is very different. The sorts of complexities that we have talked about today are part of the complexity of that fabric, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t all add to the strength of the relationships and the strength within the region.

I mentioned in my remarks strengthening our regional mechanisms. In response to the questioner from Brunei, how much responsibility will our countries take in regional fora? We are all strong and active participants in those fora, whether it’s the East Asian Summit, whether it’s ASEAN, whether it’s the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Forum, and I omitted to acknowledge my Fijian colleague Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, who is here also today. Those parts of the existing security architecture in our region are all components within that fabric as well. We need to use them. We need to push them. We need to pull them. We need to be active within them and make sure that we are leading the discussion about the challenges that our region faces. We all come to the table with broad focuses, differing priorities, but we all walk away from the table as part of that same fabric and I think that is an important aspect of the leadership in the region.

Sylvie Goulard, Minister for Armed Forces, France

Very briefly, because many things were already said, on the rules-based order, the question is perfectly legitimate and the international framework is by far not perfect, and we should never take any of our achievements for granted. It was said yesterday by Mr Turnbull, it was said this morning, so it is a duty.

But if I make two remarks, the first one: whether we like it or not, we are interdependent. No one can isolate himself from the rest of the world. Look at the questions we are discussing this morning: a nuclear crisis, or terrorism, or climate issues. You cannot decide to isolate yourself from that. So we have a common duty to find solutions, even if it is a heavy and not easy-going discussion.

The second thing is, we are lucky to have some instruments and some organisations in place. If you compare with the twentieth century, where in Europe we also had power games and balance of power, in the first part of the twentieth century we had nothing. So now we have the frameworks in which we can discuss. As you just said, we need to be more willing to spend a lot of our energy to make sure that the rules are applied, that we convince each other, that we better understand also each other to find common solutions. I perfectly trust Mr Mattis to stick to the commitments. We have an excellent cooperation with the US in Africa, and I thank the American military forces for the support they provide in the French commitment against terrorism in this huge area. So I see no reason to have doubts.

A very last point: America is a great democracy where there is debate, and we can also work with forces inside the US who are on the side of the rule of law, and I am sure that in the long term these forces will prevail.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much. We are definitely going to stop at 11.15, because otherwise the agenda of the ministers becomes too disturbed. So I am going to just take three questions, 60 seconds each, and then we’ll give each of the ministers 60 seconds to reply. But I do want to get in a few countries that haven’t yet spoken. So actually, from the US, Blake Herzinger, who is the Maritime Domain Awareness Advisor to the Pacific Fleet.

Blake Herzinger, Maritime Domain Awareness Advisor, Pacific Fleet, United States Navy

Thank you very much, Minister. My question is for Minister Payne. You have previously voiced support for the quadrilateral security engagement and today mentioned relationships with Japan, India and the United States. Could you please share with us your views on the utility of that particular quadrilateral engagement and what Australia might do to resurrect that particular engagement?

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much. To strengthen the European voice, from the Netherlands, Ernesto Braam.

Ernesto Braam, Regional Advisor for Southeast Asia, Embassy of the Netherlands to Singapore

Thank you very much. First, my compliments to IISS for this all-female panel, of course with the exception of the moderator, Dr Chipman. My question is addressed to the Australian Minister of Defence. Could you respond please to what the US Secretary of Defense Mattis just said before this panel and to what extent was he reassuring enough in terms of the US commitment to the Asia-Pacific, to security in the Asia-Pacific, in terms of statements but also in terms of actions? The French Minister just said that she was reassured, I understood, but the Australian point of view is different and of course geographically also Australia is in a very different area, so could you comment on that?

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you. The third and final question from Indonesia, Sylvia Yazid.

Dr Sylvia Yazid, Head, International Relations, Parahyangan Catholic University

Thank you, I will make it short. I would like to know the position and the role of civil society in these efforts of upholding the rules-based regional order, because we need to exhaust all resources and involve all actors for this complex issue. So, civil society. Thank you.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much. I might just go actually in reverse order. So, if I can, could I start with Sylvie Goulard, Marise Payne and then Inada-San. Sylvie.

Sylvie Goulard, Minister for Armed Forces, France

The first questions were not for me, so I will focus on the third one. Now, I agree with you, we have to invent an order in which not only states are acting but where we include non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and companies and all the stakeholders in the countries that constitute the international society altogether. Here, of course, I am quite sure that the common interests of the different peoples of the world, without being idealistic, can be quite different from the ones of the countries organised as states. This is one of the fields where we have to invest. For example, the Paris Agreement on Climate was conceived with a very strong involvement of different stakeholders, because it is also the only way to make sure that something that is agreed at a global level or at the international level is eventually implemented. So I hope we can develop in the future on that. Thank you.

Marise Payne, Minister of Defence, Australia

Thank you very much. Let me start at the back end in terms of civil society. Australia has a very broad engagement in the region through our Foreign Affairs and Trade Department, but also through our Defence Cooperation Program that engages civil society. I think that is a thread, a key thread, in the fabric that I referred to earlier. We know that as we seek to strengthen and work with countries in the region – I think Secretary Mattis used the term ‘empower’ countries in the region – that that's not possible without the engagement of civil society and the broad communities as well. So that is a threshold step that we must be taking in all our work. The frameworks that we have spoken about today, the parts of the regional security architecture that exist, we need to ensure they are complemented by comparable engagements in civil society. That is the first thing I would say.

In relation to the prospect of quadrilateral engagement between Australia, India, the US and Japan, this has been a subject of discussion recently. We have excellent and extremely strong bilateral relationships across all of the parties, the countries mentioned, and trilateral relationships; indeed, Minister Inada and I go from this meeting this morning to a trilateral meeting with Secretary Mattis, in fact. So these are matters which have been the subject of ongoing discussion. But we maintain, for example, our engagements bilaterally with India. We are exercising in our unique and elite engagement, AUSINDEX, later this year and we will see what transpires. But these are works in progress, would be my observation.

I think I was asked about how I felt personally reassured by the Secretary of Defense’s remarks this morning. It did not take Secretary Mattis’s speech this morning to reassure me of the attitude and engagement of the United States in the region. I think actions speak as loud, if not occasionally louder, than words. The first visit that the Secretary made internationally after his appointment was to Japan and to the Republic of Korea, reinforcing the commitment of the US within the region. This is a key engagement for him here and now, and on Monday Secretary Mattis, Secretary Tillerson, Foreign Minister Bishop and I will sit down in Sydney with our respective chiefs of our defence forces, the Chief of the Joint Staff General Dunford, Air Chief Marshal Binskin, the Chief of the Australian Defence Force and senior officials in our regular AUSMIN talks, which are all about engagement in the region, the strength of our relationship, the history, but more importantly the future of that relationship. I look forward to that very much. The commitment to security in the Asia-Pacific is a very solid one, one which has been reinforced by the Secretary here this morning, which was echoed by the Prime Minister last night.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much. Last word, very quickly, from Inada-San. Thank you.

Tomomi Inada, Minister of Defense, Japan

Yes, both ministers answered everything, so I will put it simply. I think that order may be maintained through countries that share today’s themes of the rule of law, regional order and universal values cooperating solidly, multilaterally, not only bilaterally. Therefore, I think that a region in which sea lanes will be kept free and open will be built through Japan, India, USA, UK and Australia firmly showing their regional presence through actions rather than just words. This is where we put our faith in the actions and clear statements of the US, even with its new administration. Also, regarding the internationally complex issue of the role of civic society, I think that a wide-ranging and deep debate on strengthening civic society’s involvement will be possible. Thank you.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Well, thank you very much, ministers. I will just close this session by stating the obvious: the three ministers speaking here shared, it was said earlier, many characteristics, but a characteristic they have ostentatiously shown in the last 90 minutes that they share in common is a strategic cast of mind that produced three really compelling presentations. So I thank you all, and please join me in thanking them.

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IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2018

The 17th Asia Security Summit will be held in Singapore on 1–3 June 2018.