Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles, Japanese Minister of Defense Kihara Minoru, the Philippines Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, met together on May 2 in Hawaii. This marked the second-ever meeting of the defense leaders of these four nations, highlighting significant collaboration to advance a shared vision for a free, open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

HONOLULU, Hawaii — The defense secretaries of the U.S., Philippines, Japan, and Australia have expressed concerns about the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in East and South China Sea.

In a joint readout from May 2, they pointed out serious concern over China’s repeated harassment and obstruction of Philippine vessels supplying troops stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

The four — Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles, Japanese Minister of Defense Kihara Minoru, the Philippines Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III — underscored the critical nature of safeguarding freedoms of navigation and overflight, alongside the adherence to international law, enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

They urged China to adhere to the conclusive and legally binding 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal Award and committed to collaborating to assist nations in exercising their rights and freedoms in the South China Sea.

The leaders emphasized their commitment to strengthen cooperation in support of regional security and stability, following the Maritime Cooperative Activity in the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone on April 7, 2024.

They stressed that multilateral defense cooperation among the four countries is growing stronger than ever, and welcomed progress in coordination at all levels.

They also discussed opportunities to further advance defense cooperation, including through continued maritime cooperation in the South China Sea, enhanced procedures to enable coordination and information sharing arrangements, as well as strengthening capacity building.