Photo/IllutrationFrom left: Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya at a joint news conference following the “two-plus-two” security talks in Sydney on Oct. 10. (Shinichi Fujiwara)

SYDNEY--Japan and Australia reaffirmed their commitment to bolster cooperation in maritime security while working closely with the United States in the face of China’s aggressive behavior.

“We have confirmed that both countries share strong opposition to attempts to unilaterally change the status quo, particularly in the East China Sea and South China Sea,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono said at a joint news conference following the “two-plus-two” meeting of Japanese and Australian foreign and defense ministers here on Oct. 10.

Japan’s new defense minister, Takeshi Iwaya, described Beijing’s maritime activities as “extremely aggressive” and “a concern for the entire global community.”

Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne and Foreign Minister Marise Payne joined their Japanese counterparts in the talks.

The joint statement of the security talks said both countries are determined to “explore opportunities to conduct broader areas of bilateral/multilateral training and exercises involving the Australian Defense Force and Japan Self-Defense Forces, including in areas such as disaster response, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures.”

The Abe administration is seeking to expand bilateral collaboration with Australia in maritime security because Canberra is also paying close attention to events in the Pacific region.

Australia has accepted U.S. Marines in Darwin in the northern part of the country since 2012, part of measures to keep in check China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.

At the joint news conference, Pyne said his country welcomes Japan’s engagement in defense in the Pacific region.

The two countries also agreed to set a new date for a joint drill next year involving fighter jets by Japan’s Air SDF and the Royal Australian Air Force. The planned drill was called off after a strong earthquake struck the northern main island of Hokkaido in September.

Japan and Australia also reaffirmed they will accelerate negotiations to conclude a reciprocal access agreement, which will set the legal status of both armed forces when they visit each other’s countries to respond to natural disasters or conduct joint operations.

But the two countries need to tread carefully with China. Beijing is Australia’s largest trade partner, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to visit China this month.

Although the joint statement touched on China, it was carefully worded to avoid antagonizing Beijing. It said Tokyo and Canberra “reasserted the importance of a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with China through dialogue, cooperation and engagement.”

(This article was written by Shinichi Fujiwara and Tetsuo Kogure in Sydney.)