Well what a beautiful day and what a great demonstration of the capabilities of the Ground Self Defence Force of Japan. This has been a great demonstration of the way in which security and prosperity go hand in hand and reinforce each other. You can see here, the Bush Master vehicle, a great example of Australian technology, Australian defence industry exports here to Japan and of course, to many other countries.

These Bush Master vehicles have been deployed, of course, in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 1,000 vehicles have deployed there. The representatives of Thales Australia told me that 100 have been involved in IED attacks, and no lives lost. These are lifesaving vehicles, Australian technology, Australian expertise, and it’s wonderful that they are being used and have been acquired and are being used by the Self-Defense Force here in Japan.

Of course, we have seen the Patriot missile battery here. A reminder with these two displays of military hardware of the two big threats to stability and security in our region. Terrorism on the one hand, and, of course, the reckless regime in North Korea on the other. You can see the action that Japan is taking to defend itself against a ballistic missile attack.

We’re also, of course, focused on the prosperity that comes from open markets and free trade. The Prime Minister Abe and I are committed to open markets and free trade in a rules-based order in our region. That, of course, is underpinned by security.

Now, what we’re working on is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Obviously we were disappointed when the US pulled out after the change of Administration and we’re working now with the aim of getting the TPP signed without the US, of course, by March. But you can see the importance of free trade and open markets, the Bush Masters are a good example of that. Selling Australian expertise and technology as well, of course, as the energy and resources, primary products that have been the mainstay of our exports to the region and in particular to Japan, which of course Australia is the largest supplier of Japan’s energy needs.

The other point that is critical here to recognise is that as we work more closely together we make the region safer and all of that is the foundation upon which our prosperity depends. So I want to thank the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Abe, I want to thank the Defence Minister, Onodera his Vice Minister and of course the Generals that welcomed us here to show us this extraordinary display of great special operations capabilities developed, as they said, through joint training exercises with Australia’s Special Forces. So we look forward to that cooperation deepening and continuing in the future.

Now, on a more local topic – as you know, as I always say, free trade, open markets, exports brings jobs and what a great jobs number today! 34,700 new jobs in December. 403,000 jobs – new jobs – created in the last year.

This is the longest run – equal to the longest run of consecutive monthly job increases since 1978.

Participation rate is at the highest level in seven years, and we’ve seen already consumer confidence at the highest level since November 2013.

So, jobs and growth – the slogan in 2016, a big outcome this year.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, your visit to the base today and this new defence agreement that you’re hoping to sign with Japan. What’s the signal here? What does that signal to North Korea?

PRIME MINISTER:

The signal to North Korea is one of absolute solidarity between Australia, Japan, the United States and China and, indeed, the rest of the global community in continuing to impose strong economic sanctions. We have to maintain those sanctions – that is the only way we will achieve the bringing of this reckless and rogue regime back to its senses. PM Abe and I are absolutely of the same mind on that.

JOURNALIST:

If Japan was to found itself coming under attack by North Korea, would you expect Australia to come to its assistance?

PRIME MINISTER:

Obviously you are asking me to consider a hypothetical and I’m not in the business of doing that.

We have a treaty with the United States where ANZUS – where of course each side would come to the other’s aid in the event of being attacked in the Pacific – but as you can see, Australia and Japan, the United States, are working very closely together, and it is vital that we do so.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, do you agree with Rex Tillerson’s appraisal that unless North Korea comes to the negotiating table on denuclearisation then it will trigger military action?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think that’s fair description of what Rex Tillerson said. The point that he’s made, which I agree with, is that military options should remain on the table and he’s also said that we have to maintain the economic pressure from the sanctions and not to – you know, accept a sort of a lull from North Korea as an indication that they are going to change their ways.

The goal is the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. That is manifestly in the interests of everybody in the region, not least of whom are the people of Korea, South and North, and that’s got to be the goal, and when the regime shows real movement in that direction, I think that’s where negotiations can begin in earnest. So I agree with what Rex Tillerson said on that score.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Hang on, I’ll go to you and then I’ll go to you.

JOURNALIST:

So on that note, what you make of the decision of the North and South Koreans to march together at the Olympics, do you think that’s moving in the right direction?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, they’ve done that before. We obviously always welcome, in the field of sport, people coming together. But we have to be very clear-eyed about this. History tells us – we are not theorising – history tells us a very bitter lesson about North Korea. They have a long habit of ratcheting up their militarisation and then going into a lull for a while, trying to persuade people they are changing their ways, changing nothing and then ratcheting up again.

We need to maintain the pressure of these strong economic sanctions. I want to note of course that those sanctions are being supported and implemented by the global community and including of course China.

JOURNALIST:

So therefore Prime Minister, is it naive to think that giving concessions to Pyongyang over such things as the Olympics, would lead to denuclearisation talks?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think anyone imagines that North Korea participating in the Winter Olympics is going to lead to denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Hang on, I’ll go to you and then to you.

JOURNALIST:

This Visiting Forces Agreement …

PRIME MINISTER:

The Reciprocal Access Agreement.

JOURNALIST:

Is it potentially a precursor to a security alliance down the track between Australia and Japan?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well again, I’m not going to theorise on that. We have very close ties, clearly the goal to reach agreement on a Reciprocal Access Agreement, which is a complex matter and it’s being worked through by our officials. That’s important to facilitate, the type of joint training that you’ve seen discussed today and we have seen as part of the presentation today, was all about. Of course, the Japanese Self-Defense Force, Australian armed forces of course, as they train together, they learn from each other and are better able to do their job of keeping our respective people safe.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister you mentioned the message to North Korea that these closer ties are sending. What about, is there any message sent to China, particularly their aggression in the South China Sea by Japan and Australia’s relations?

PRIME MINISTER:

Our position on the South China Sea is very well-known and well understood by everybody in the region, including of course by China. It is very simply this; that parties should refrain from taking steps to militarise features in the South China Sea. Disputes should be settled by negotiation in accordance with international law.

I want to say that I think there’s been some real progress on that score. At the last East Asia Summit, you saw, there was more positive movement towards the code of conduct being finalised in respect of the South China Sea. So I’m more optimistic about those issues being resolved than I would have been a couple of years ago. We will just have one more.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the TPP?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

JOURNALIST:

You mentioned the TPP by March. Does that suggest that you are confident that the Canadians are back in, the Mexicans aren’t getting nervous? Can you elaborate on your confidence that it is going to happen by March?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is a meeting of Trade Ministers scheduled in March in Chile and the goal is to have the TPP agreed, concluded then. Now, of course, as we all know, trade talks invariably take a long time. There are hills and hollows as you go along to get to the goal. But Prime Minister Abe and I are very committed to it. We’re using all of our persuasive skills, such as they are, to ensure that we can get it agreed.

It is manifestly in Australia’s interests and its manifestly in Japan’s interests. Let’s be quite frank about this. My job is to ensure that Australians have great jobs, can get better jobs, can get better paid jobs, they’ve got better opportunities to start their businesses and grow their businesses and they’ve more opportunities.

Jobs and growth is my job as Prime Minister and trade is a key part of that.

This is one of the reasons we’re seeing the strong jobs in Australia is because of the big opportunities that have been opened up in the region. Japan is a huge market. The Free Trade Agreement, three years old now, between Japan and Australia, is reaping enormous dividends on both sides, both on the Japan side and the Australian side. So we want to do more of that, because it delivers great results for Australians.

Now one more and then we must go.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, both Japan and Australia seek a very involved US in the Pacific and in Asia. Can I ask you, a year into the Trump Administration, how would you describe – yours and Australia’s relationship with the US now and are you and Prime Minister Abe satisfied with their commitment to this region?

PRIME MINISTER:

The commitment of the United States to the region is as strong as it ever has been. It is rock solid. You saw that from President Trump’s extended visit to the region just late last year. I was with him obviously in Vietnam and in Manila.

That’s was a very, very tangible evidence of the very strong commitment the US has to the region. They’re a vital part of the, a vital part of the foundation, the security foundation, which has enabled all of this prosperity in the region, over 40 or more years.

What we’ve seen is extraordinary growth in this part of the world, hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty. That would not have been possible without the relative peace and stability in the region and that has been underpinned by the strong presence of the United States.

I’m very confident that that will continue long into the future and President Trump has been absolutely unequivocal about his commitment to it.

So thank you, all, very much indeed.

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Thank you @shinzoabe for your very warm welcome to Japan today.