The United States and Australia have agreed to deepen their defense ties, including increasing the rotational presence of U.S. air, land and sea forces in the Oceania country, citing shared concerns over China’s actions around Taiwan and in the East and South China Seas.
Tuesday’s announcement follows talks between senior US and Australian defense and diplomatic officials in Washington, DC.
“Today we agreed to deepen our defense cooperation in several important ways,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a joint press conference with his Australian counterpart, Richard Marles. , which also included the foreign ministers of the two countries.
“Based on today’s talks, we will increase the rotational presence of US forces in Australia. This includes rotations of bomber, fighter, and future U.S. Navy and U.S. Army task force rotations,” he said.
The two countries also agreed “to invite Japan to integrate into our posture of force initiatives in Australia”, he said.
Austin cited the rise of China and The Russian invasion of Ukraine as reasons for the strengthening of US-Australian defense ties.
“The United States and Australia share a vision of a region where countries can determine their own future,” he said.
“Unfortunately, this vision is being questioned today. China’s dangerous and coercive actions throughout the Indo-Pacific, including around Taiwan, and towards Pacific island countries and in the East and South China Seas, threaten regional peace and stability,” he said. he added.
In a joint statement After Tuesday’s talks, known as AUSMIN, the two sides said “to strengthen the US ground presence” they would expand the locations of US Army and US Marine Corps forces in Australia. He said they would also identify priority locations to support the enhanced US presence with improvements to runways, aircraft parking areas and fuel and ammunition storage, as well as prepositioning stores, ammunition and fuel. .
Washington sees Canberra as a key partner in its efforts to fend off China, and analysts say Australia could have a crucial logistical role to play in defending Taiwan against any attempt by Beijing to reclaim the strategic self-administered island. .
The Australian Northern Territory already hosts frequent military collaborations with the United States.
Thousands of U.S. Marines rotate through the territory each year for training and joint exercises, and Washington is plans to deploy up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to an air base in the region, according to Australian media.
Invitation to Japan
With an eye on China, the two countries also concluded a tripartite security pact – known as AUKUS – which will provide Canberra with the technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines. Both sides said they had further discussions on the issue and that UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace will attend an initial in-person meeting of AUKUS ministers on Wednesday in Washington, DC.
Marles, Australia’s defense minister, said Tuesday’s agreements ‘would see an increased level of activity between our two countries across the board’ and also contemplate increased cooperation to build capacity at facilities in Australia .
“It is really important that we do this from the point of view of the balance within our region and the involvement of other countries in our region,” he said, adding that he and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Penny Wong would hold similar 2+2 talks with Japan in Tokyo later in the week “with an invitation for Japan to participate in more exercises with Australia and the United States.”
Washington, Canberra and Tokyo have also worked together in recent years under the so-called Quad grouping which includes India.
Marles added that the United States and Australia took steps on Tuesday “to create a more cohesive defense industrial base” and that they needed to work together more closely “to improve our military capability and develop new technologies.”
The deepening of US-Australian defense ties comes as the two nations seek to ease tensions with China.
Their leaders held separate talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Bali in November.
After his meeting with Xi, US President Joe Biden said the two countries agreed on the need to cooperate on global challenges, including climate change and global food security, and instructed their teams to maintain regular contact. As part of the effort, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to make the first visit by a senior US diplomat to Beijing in more than four years early next year.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, after his talks with Xi, also signaled that the two countries would seek to move past years of disagreements over trade, human rights, the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as part of its territory.
As the AUSMIN talks took place, a bipartisan group of Australian lawmakers traveled to Taiwan on Tuesday despite warnings from Beijing.
Wong, Australia’s foreign secretary, said in Washington, DC, that there should be “no unilateral change to the status quo” on Taiwan and that Canberra appreciated “our longstanding unofficial relationship with Taiwan”.