Australia, U.S. deepening security partnership as part of ‘unbreakable alliance’


As thousands of their nations’ troops conducted an unprecedented joint military exercise across the Australian continent, the defense and foreign ministers of Australia and the United States agreed in late July 2023 to deepen security cooperation, including in force posture, weapons development and emerging technologies.

They also announced plans to broaden cooperation with Japan in areas such as training and exercises, and integrated air and missile defense, while highlighting progress on their nations’ trilateral initiative with the United Kingdom under which Australia will acquire conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines.

The Australia-U.S. alliance, signed in 1951, “has never been stronger,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement after their talks in Brisbane, Australia. “Based on a bond of shared values, it remains a partnership of strategic interest — premised on a common determination to preserve stability, prosperity, and peace.”

Among other initiatives, the leaders said the allies would: continue upgrading air bases and other military installations in northern Australia; conduct longer and more regular visits of U.S. Navy submarines to Australia beginning in 2023; initiate a regular rotation of U.S. Army watercraft in Australia; and rotate U.S. Navy maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to Australia to boost regional maritime domain awareness.

They also agreed to collaborate on “critical technologies and innovation to ensure the Alliance’s asymmetrical capability edge,” including coproduction of a guided multiple-launch rocket system in Australia by 2025. The U.S., meanwhile, will seek to speed the transfer of guided weapons technology to support missile production in Australia.

Australia’s recent Defence Strategic Review, the most comprehensive assessment of the nation’s force readiness in decades, recommended developing long-range strike capabilities to allow the Australian Defence Force “to hold an adversary at risk further from our shores.”

“We’re also thrilled to announce that we’re taking steps to enable Australia to maintain, repair and overhaul critical U.S.-sourced munitions,” Austin said at a joint news conference, according to Australia’s ABC News. “These efforts will bolster deterrence by strengthening our interoperability and enhancing our sustainment and logistics capabilities for critical missions.”

The leaders also stated their intent to boost space integration and cooperation under the nations’ Force Posture Agreement, including in exercises and operations.

The Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations, first held in 1985, came amid the allies’ largest-ever Talisman Sabre exercise, which drew 30,000 troops from more than a dozen nations for two weeks of live and simulated drills and training across warfighting domains.

The four leaders reaffirmed their nations’ commitment to enhancing interoperability with regional militaries, noting that Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Tonga were inaugural participants in Talisman Sabre, while India, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand were first-time observers.

They said they would seek opportunities for cooperation with partners including India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea to support Indo-Pacific stability and security. Additionally, the planned deployment of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter to the Pacific in early 2024 will “further maritime domain awareness and training in the region to address maritime security priorities including illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.”

While in Brisbane, Austin warned that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is seeking to undermine regional stability, ABC News reported.

“We’ve seen troubling PRC coercion from the East China Sea to the South China Sea to right here in the southwest Pacific and will continue to support our allies and partners as they defend themselves from bullying behavior,” he said.

With the world facing a volatile and complex future, partnerships are critical, Marles added.

“We see the global rules-based order under threat in Eastern Europe, and we see it under pressure in the Indo-Pacific,” he said, according to ABC News. “The way forward in respect to all of that is not obvious, but one thing is really clear: Now is the time to be working closely with friends, and Australia has no better friend than the United States of America.”

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