By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Aug. 01, 2023) -- Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III returned from a weeklong trip to the Indo-Pacific region, with "productive" stops in both Papua New Guinea and Australia, said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
While Austin has made multiple trips to the Indo-Pacific region during his tenure, this trip was the first time a U.S. secretary of defense has ever visited Papua New Guinea.
"The secretary and PNG leaders discussed the recently signed U.S./Papua New Guinea Defense Cooperation Agreement and agreed on the importance of continuing to deepen U.S. and Papua New Guinea defense ties to advance our bilateral cooperation and advance our shared goals in the Indo-Pacific region," Ryder said.
Immediately following the trip to Papua New Guinea, Austin headed for Australia to participate in the 33rd Australia/U.S. ministerial consultations, also called AUSMIN.
"I'm proud to say that the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Australia has never been stronger," Ryder said. "Coming out of the AUSMIN discussions are two nations committed to advance several key lines of shared effort to include enhanced force posture cooperation, capability development and defense industrial base cooperation, and regional security integration."
Together, those four leaders made headway on a variety of topics, including enhanced force-posture cooperation, capability development and defense industrial base cooperation, and regional security integration.
The leaders agreed, for instance, to conduct more regular and longer expeditionary visits of U.S. submarines to Australia starting this year, to continue with upgrades at key Australian bases in the north, and to an arrangement to collaborate on a flexible guided weapons production and maintenance capability in Australia. An initial focus there includes co-production of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or GMLRS, by 2025.
While in Australia, the secretary also visited with American service members participating in the ongoing Talisman Sabre 2023 exercise, which involves more than 30,000 military personnel from 13 nations. That exercise is scheduled to end Friday.
"[Austin] greatly appreciated the opportunity to speak to some of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, guardians and DOD civilians who are supporting the exercise, as well as troops representing international allies and partners," Ryder said.