Japan’s defense minister made a renewed call for “vigorous defense cooperation” with Australia and India following aggressive behavior by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the South and East China seas and continued violations of United Nations sanctions by North Korea.
Defense Minister Tara Kono, pictured, also discussed cooperative measures to counter the COVID-19 pandemic in calls with Australian Defence Minister Karen Reynolds and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
In his May 8, 2020, call with Singh, Kono discussed April 2020 intrusions into Japanese territorial waters by China Coast Guard vessels. He also brought up the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Vietnamese officials said the boat was rammed by a China Coast Guard vessel.
Kono’s ministry stated that India and Japan “strongly oppose attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force,” emphasizing that “free and open maritime order based on the rule of law is important.”
He told reporters he and Singh also discussed measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and reviewed a case analysis conducted by Japan Self -Defense Forces (JSDF) about how passengers and crew were evacuated and treated after the Diamond Princess cruise ship experienced an outbreak. The passengers included 119 Indian nationals.
The April 2020 report by the JSDF said Japan’s military assisted 2,800 of the 3,700 passengers. The assistance included medical treatment and arranging transportation for passengers to their home countries.
The ministers agreed a joint exercise by the countries’ air forces would need to be postponed because of the pandemic. “This will be the first joint training for fighter jets from Japan and India,” Kono said, “so I would like it to resume as soon as the coronavirus infection subsides.”
The “seamless security posture of both countries” must be maintained, they said, to sustain and enhance a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
Speaking by phone May 7, 2020, Kono and Reynolds agreed their armed forces would share lessons about combating COVID-19. They also agreed to coordinate on shared security issues.
“We exchanged views with the Australian Defence Minister Reynolds on regional conditions, including North Korea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and shared the importance of continuing to work closely with Australia and Japan,” Kono said at a news conference.
The ministers agreed North Korea’s illegal maritime activities, which include ship-to-ship transfers of goods, must be stopped because they violate United Nations Security Council resolutions.