Australia-Republic of Korea 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meeting

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles and Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Tae-yul and Minister of National Defense Shin Won-sik on 1 May 2024 in Melbourne to advance the Australia-Republic of Korea (ROK) Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). The Ministers acknowledged the Traditional Custodians of the land upon which the meeting took place and highlighted the ancient and enduring links between Australia’s First Nations people and Country. The Ministers welcomed increasing strategic and economic convergence between Australia and the ROK.

Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

The Ministers committed to expand cooperation – bilaterally and with regional partners and institutions – to promote stability, prosperity and respect for international law in the Indo-Pacific. Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong welcomed the ROK’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and the commitment it makes to engaging more in the region and working closely with partners.

The Ministers warmly welcomed the strengthening of our respective alliances with the United States. They highly appreciated the improvement of ROK-Japan relations, and the outcomes of the US-ROK-Japan Trilateral Leaders’ Summit at Camp David. The Ministers agreed to explore trilateral cooperation between Australia, the ROK and Japan through government and 1.5-track Indo-Pacific dialogues. The Ministers also reiterated their resolve to work together with like-minded Indo-Pacific partners.

The Ministers welcomed the Quad’s positive and practical agenda to support the priorities and needs of regional countries. Minister Cho and Minister Shin expressed the ROK’s interest in the Quad, and Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong welcomed the ROK’s complementary strengths in various fields, including emerging technologies, health and climate change.

The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to ASEAN centrality and ASEAN-led regional architecture and for cooperation with the Pacific Islands Forum.

The Ministers expressed their support for the implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). The Ministers welcomed Australia and the ROK co-hosting, with Indonesia, Japan and the ASEAN Secretariat, the forum Maritime Cooperation: Taking Stock and Looking Beyond in November 2023 under the framework of the AOIP. The Ministers committed to exploring opportunities for Australia and the ROK to cooperate more in Southeast Asia, including in the Mekong subregion.

The Ministers acknowledged respective efforts to strengthen relationships with partners in Southeast Asia. Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong welcomed the ROK’s launch of the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative (KASI) in 2022. Minister Cho and Minister Shin welcomed Australia’s launch of Invested: Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040 and hosting of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in 2024. The Ministers tasked officials to scope areas of further collaboration in Southeast Asia, in particular in infrastructure cooperation. The Ministers welcomed the recent signing of an MOU between Export Finance Australia and the Export-Import Bank of Korea, which will support Indo-Pacific infrastructure development, decarbonisation, the diversification of supply chains and critical minerals.

Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong welcomed the ROK’s deepening of ties with the Pacific through the inaugural Korea-Pacific Islands Summit, which was informed by the needs and priorities of Pacific island countries. As members of the Partners in the Blue Pacific, the Ministers agreed to deliver tangible outcomes working closely with Pacific island countries, including to support the Pacific Islands Forum’s 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. The Ministers agreed to enhance support for regional disaster preparedness and to coordinate cyber capacity efforts.

The Ministers emphasised the vital importance of responsibly managing strategic competition. They welcomed recent dialogue between the United States and China in this regard. The Ministers reaffirmed the need to promote open channels of communication, transparency and practical measures to reduce risks of misunderstanding, miscalculation, escalation and conflict in our region. They also reaffirmed the importance of adherence to international law and restraint from destabilising behaviour.

The Ministers expressed concern about developments in the South China Sea, and emphasised the importance of maintaining peace, security, stability and freedom of navigation and overflight in and above the South China Sea and East China Sea, consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, particularly UNCLOS.

The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of preserving peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of security and prosperity in the region.

Minister Cho and Minister Shin welcomed Australia’s new International Development Policy and increases in Official Development Assistance (ODA). The Ministers welcomed the renewal of the Development Cooperation MOU signed on 5 March 2024 to promote further synergy between development programs and enhance progress against the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong welcomed the ROK’s recent commitment to double the scale of ODA for Pacific countries by 2027, as per the action plan for the Korea-Pacific Islands Summit, May 2023.

The Ministers affirmed their commitment under the MOU on Cyber and Critical Technology Cooperation. They agreed to expand cooperation in critical emerging technology standards-setting, including in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum and telecommunications technologies, including through the next Cyber and Critical Technology Policy Dialogue. The Ministers welcomed the release of each country’s respective Cyber Security Strategies, noting these offer opportunities to work together to uphold international law and the norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace, as well as to deter and prevent malicious cyber activities including through public attribution when necessary. The Ministers recognised the opportunities and challenges posed by AI in the military domain. The Ministers agreed that the 2nd REAIM Summit, to be hosted by the ROK on 9-10 September 2024, would be an important opportunity to advance the global dialogue on responsible AI in the military domain.

The Ministers reiterated their commitment to strengthening the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime. They reiterated their determination to continue efforts towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

The Ministers denounced the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) destabilising activities, which undermine Indo-Pacific security and prosperity. The Ministers condemned the unprecedented series of reckless launches using ballistic missile technology since 2022 and the DPRK’s continued development of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction programs. The Ministers called for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the DPRK. They urged the DPRK to comply with its obligations under United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and return to dialogue, and agreed to maintain pressure on the DPRK to denuclearise. The Ministers welcomed increased coordination on autonomous sanctions and undertook to continue coordination efforts in the event of further provocations by the DPRK. Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong expressed support for the goal of the ROK’s Audacious Initiative. The Ministers expressed their deep disappointment over Russia’s use of veto to end the 1718 Committee Panel of Experts’ mandate.

The Ministers further condemned the DPRK’s malicious cyber activities, which have become a primary revenue source for the DPRK’s unlawful nuclear and missile program. They noted with grave concern the severe human rights abuses in the DPRK and committed to strengthening cooperation to protect and promote human rights in the DPRK. The Ministers supported a unified Korean Peninsula that is free and at peace.

Minister Cho and Minister Shin acknowledged Australia’s ongoing commitment, alongside other partners, to UNSC sanctions enforcement on the DPRK through Operation Argos. The Ministers also recognised the importance of Australia’s support and contribution to United Nations Command (UNC) and the UNC Military Armistice Commission (UNMAC) through Operation Linesmen.

Defence and Security Cooperation

The Ministers recognised the strategic alignment between the ROK and Australia, evident in the ROK’s National Security Strategy and the Australian Government’s National Defence Strategy. They acknowledged that growing strategic alignment supported enhanced defence cooperation both bilaterally and with like-minded partners to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, as well as on the Korean Peninsula. Both sides recognised the contribution of the AUKUS partnership to support security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. The ROK welcomed that the AUKUS countries are considering cooperation with additional partners on Pillar ll advanced capability projects.

The Ministers agreed to explore ways to develop an enduring reciprocal defence cooperation framework to facilitate the increasing sophistication and complexity of our joint activities and exercises.

Following from the 19 October 2023 Australia-ROK Defence Ministers’ Meeting, the Ministers reaffirmed the signing of the Service-to-Service MOUs as a positive step towards deepening the defence partnership between the ROK Navy, Army and Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Ministers committed to practical defence cooperation through the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus and to seek opportunities to complement each other’s defence engagement activities with Southeast Asian partners, while finding ways to work together with Pacific island countries to contribute to maritime security.

The Ministers recognised the importance of the ROK’s participation in large-scale exercises held in Australia, such as Pitch Black and Talisman Sabre, in mutually enhancing our forces’ capability and interoperability. They welcomed the ROK’s inaugural sending of observers to Exercise Southern Jackaroo in June 2024. They also welcomed ROK participation in key Australia-led regional defence activities, such as Indo-Pacific Endeavour and Operation Render Safe. The Ministers agreed to work towards increasing and streamlining ROK participation in future iterations. The Ministers reiterated Australia’s commitment to participating in exercises in the ROK, including those to support peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula such as defence command post exercises Ulchi Freedom Shield and Freedom Shield.

The Ministers recognised the importance of defence cooperation with like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region. The Ministers emphasised active participation in exercises and activities bilaterally, as well as multilaterally, with countries such as the United States and Japan, will contribute to peace and stability in the region.

The Ministers welcomed the signing of the MOU between Korea National Defense University and the Australian Defence Force Training Centre to promote bilateral peace operations training, education and cooperation. They also welcomed the ROK’s participation in the regional peace operations Exercise Pirap Jabiru, which is co-hosted by Australia and Thailand, and Australian collaboration on the ROK-led peace operations training package, the United Nations Triangular Partnership Program, in Southeast Asia.

The Ministers agreed to regularise bilateral intelligence exchanges and information sharing.

The Ministers welcomed the December 2023 contract signing for Hanwha Defence Australia to deliver and support 129 Australian-built Redback Infantry Fighting Vehicles (LAND 400 Phase 3) for the Australian Army, and affirmed defence industry collaboration would continue to bring both sides closer together. The Ministers highlighted the value of co-producing defence equipment and co-pioneering new markets on the basis of ROK-Australia defence industry collaboration and agreed to continue related discussions in the future.

The Ministers acknowledged the broadening defence industry collaboration, including through the defence industry trade mission and symposium at the 2023 Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition. The Ministers noted the ongoing investment in joint defence science and technology (S&T) research projects and agreed cooperation in this area would grow under force modernisation and innovation on both sides. The Ministers acknowledged that current S&T research projects are progressing soundly and building a strong basis for future collaborative projects.

The Ministers highlighted the value of people-to-people links between defence organisations in building mutual trust and bolstering interoperability. Deputy Prime Minister Marles invited the ROK to send high-level military delegations on familiarisation and study tours to Australia, with reciprocal visits from Australia to the ROK, in order to build up the bilateral senior officer network.

Global Cooperation

Australia and the ROK share an enduring vision for a world where all nations uphold the principles in the UN Charter and international law. The Ministers agreed to work closely with regional and global partners to seek mutually agreed solutions to global challenges, and to ensure the multilateral system continues to deliver for our region.

Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong congratulated the ROK on its election to the UNSC as a non-permanent member for the 2024-25 term. Minister Cho and Minister Shin affirmed that the ROK, as a member of the UNSC, will work closely with Australia.

The Ministers expressed deep concern at the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. They condemned the horrific Hamas attacks on 7 October 2023 as acts of terror against innocent civilians. The Ministers agreed on the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages and a massive and sustained increase in the delivery of humanitarian relief to Gaza. The Ministers reiterated the importance of all parties adhering to international humanitarian law and protecting civilians. They also voiced their deep concern at ongoing high levels of settler violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and called on all parties to refrain from actions that inflame tensions and undermine stability. The Ministers agreed on the need for a negotiated political solution to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict and agreed that a secure and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians will only come through a two-state solution. The Ministers discussed how the international community can help build momentum towards a lasting peace and how the ROK’s approach to the vote in the UNSC on Palestinian membership reflected this aspiration. The Ministers called on all parties in the region to exercise restraint and avoid actions that might lead to the escalation of conflict in the region. They unreservedly condemned Houthi attacks on commercial shipping, and reiterated their commitment to upholding the rules-based order in the maritime domain and the central principle of freedom of navigation.

The Ministers deplored Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and called for Russia’s complete and unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine. In addition to the terrible damage and loss of life in Ukraine, the Ministers stressed the war is exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy, including heightening energy and food insecurity in the Indo-Pacific. They reaffirmed their strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and underscored the need to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine. They called on all those with close relationships with Russia to refrain from helping Russia to continue its war in any way and to convince Russia to end its illegal war. The Ministers condemned the provision of military equipment and munitions by the DPRK to Russia and expressed concern over what the DPRK may gain in exchange for its provision to Russia.

The Ministers agreed to continue their positive and constructive advocacy for human rights. This includes their shared commitment to gender equality, women’s empowerment, increased women’s leadership, and the elimination of all forms of sexual and gender-based violence as well as social inclusion and disability equity and rights.

The Ministers acknowledged the 10th anniversary of MIKTA – a diverse and cross-regional consultative grouping, united by a commitment to work together to protect, strengthen and promote the multilateral system, build understanding and consensus on issues of shared interest and seek pragmatic and creative solutions to global challenges.

Economic Cooperation

The Ministers reaffirmed the energy partnership between the ROK and Australia and the opportunities for the two countries in building clean energy supply chains and supporting regional decarbonisation, including for energy trade. The Ministers welcomed climate change and clean energy policies from Australia and the ROK that are helping to reduce costs for consumers, further strengthen energy security and reduce emissions for both countries. The Ministers reiterated the importance of energy security through the net zero transition. The Ministers further noted the importance of ongoing cooperation in building resilient and diversified critical minerals supply chains.

The Ministers welcomed ongoing dialogue to elevate our partnership on energy security, climate and green economy issues. The partnership will build on cooperation between our nations and accelerate collaboration on energy security and climate action while maximising opportunities to mutually benefit from the growing green economy. Close cooperation on hydrogen, carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), green metals and other areas is needed for our two countries to achieve net zero by 2050 and our respective nationally determined contribution (NDC) goals. The Ministers also welcomed the agreement to initiate an annual climate dialogue between the Ambassadors for climate change of the two countries.

The Ministers acknowledged that the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) play an important role in addressing climate change and promoting a green transition in developing countries. They reaffirmed their support for GCF and GGGI as contributing members, and agreed that climate finance needs to support those who are vulnerable to climate change.

The Ministers reiterated their commitment to open, inclusive, sustainable and transparent market economy principles and the rules-based multilateral trading system. The Ministers further undertook to promote closer alignment in approaches to multilateral institutions and forums, including the World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, G20 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In particular, the Ministers agreed that APEC 2025, to be hosted by the ROK, will provide an opportunity to further advance these commitments.

The Ministers expressed their opposition to economic coercion, which undermines the rules-based multilateral trading system. The Ministers committed to working together to deter and address economic coercion and build collective resilience.

The Ministers identified future opportunities for cooperation on economic security, reflecting our desire to share assessments of geoeconomic trends and exchange views on effective responses to economic security issues, including diversification and supply chain resilience, regulatory controls, critical and emerging technologies, and engaging business to improve mutual risk analyses, as well as expanding cooperation in multilateral fora.

The Ministers reaffirmed the value of the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) in strengthening the trade and investment partnership between the two countries and welcomed the tenth anniversary of KAFTA in 2024.

People and Culture

The Ministers noted the affinity, mutual respect and strong connections between the peoples of Australia and the ROK. They recognised the critical roles of the Korea Foundation and the Australia-Korea Foundation in supporting international objectives, fostering people-to-people and institutional links and cultivating the next generation of global leaders through collaboration across business, education, academia, arts, culture and society. The Ministers welcomed the establishment of a Visiting Professor of Australian Studies in the ROK from 2024. They noted the success of the Second Korea Australia Future Forum in September 2023, particularly the Chairs’ agreement for the addition of a youth-led junior forum and increased engagement with business.

The Ministers reaffirmed the growing convergence and importance of close cooperation between Australia and the ROK. They reiterated their commitment to enhancing the Australia-ROK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and exploring ways to enhance cooperation in light of the shifting strategic circumstances. The Ministers looked forward to continued senior political-level engagement and the Republic of Korea hosting the next 2+2 in 2026.

/Public Release. View in full here.