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Australia, U.S. Agree to Expand Defense Cooperation

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Dec. 06, 2022) -- A discussion between the U.S. secretaries of defense and state and their Australian counterparts ended with a commitment to deepened defense cooperation.

"The bonds between our democracies and our peoples have been forged by shared sacrifice, shared values and shared history," said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, who spoke today at the conclusion of 32nd annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations. "As we look to the future, those bonds are stronger than they've ever been. That was clear throughout the outstanding discussions that we had today." 

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Austin said that he, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles discussed, among other things, Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the increased tensions in the Indo-Pacific. 

"The United States and Australia share a vision of a region where countries can determine their own futures, and they should be able to seek security and prosperity free from coercion and intimidation," Austin said. "Unfortunately, that vision is being challenged today." 

Austin said China's actions in the Indo-Pacific--including with Taiwan, in the East and South China Seas, and with other island nations in the Pacific--threaten regional peace and stability. Additionally, he said, Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is an attack on the international rules-based order and is a threat to nations all over the world. 

Austin said those threats have led the U.S. and Australia to agree to an increased defense partnership. 

"Today, we agreed to deepen our defense cooperation in several important ways," Austin said. "Based upon today's talks, we will increase rotational presence of U.S. forces in Australia. That includes rotations of bomber task forces, fighters and future rotations of U.S. Navy and U.S. Army capabilities." 

The secretary also said the U.S. and Australia will expand logistics and sustainment cooperation and look for ways to further integrate their defense industrial bases. 

Austin also said the U.S. and Australia are not alone in their concerns about increased tensions in the Indo-Pacific, and he said both countries have agreed to invite Japan to integrate into the new force posture initiatives. 

Marles said he and Australia's foreign minister will visit Japan later this week to discuss that increased involvement. 

"It is a great outcome of today's meeting that we can go to Japan at the end of this week with an invitation for Japan to be participating in more exercises with Australia and the United States," Marles said. 

The Australian defense minister also said he's excited that there were discussions about further integrating the U.S. and Australian defense industrial bases. 

"Today, we have also taken steps to create a more seamless defense industrial base between our two countries," he said. "We need to be working closer together to enhance our military capability and to develop new technologies." 

For that to happen, Marles said, regulatory barriers must be broken down that now inhibit greater cooperation. 

"We couldn't be more pleased in the sense of shared commitment that there has been on the part of both the U.S. and ourselves in relation to making real steps forward in terms of breaking down those barriers to create that seamless defense industry environment," Marles said.

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