Australia, U.K. sign defense treaty to meet ‘contemporary challenges’

The Associated Press

Australia and the United Kingdom signed a new defense and security cooperation agreement in March 2024, with the nations’ defense ministers saying the pact is required to meet “contemporary challenges” and maintain a global rules-based order.

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles and U.K. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps signed the treaty following annual bilateral defense talks in Canberra, part of the Australia-U.K. Ministerial (AUKMIN) meetings first held in 2006.

“Australia’s relationship with the U.K. is dynamic and enduring,” Marles, who also is deputy prime minister, said in a statement. “From the U.K.’s leadership of support for Ukraine and efforts to address the Houthi threat, to increasing contributions in the Pacific and the Indo-Pacific, we continue to work closely together to support a global rules-based order.

“As the world becomes more complex and uncertain, we must modernize our most important partnerships,” he said.

The treaty includes provisions to make it easier for the nations’ forces to operate together in each other’s territory, such as the joint training of Ukrainian troops in the U.K.

Shapps said the treaty formalizes consultative methods on issues affecting each nation’s sovereignty and regional security.

“I think one of the most important elements is it describes a mechanism by which we consult when either of our countries are under threat and we have those discussions more formalized than it is at the moment,” Shapps said at a news conference with Marles at Australia’s Parliament House.

“We do already cooperate very significantly on defense matters, it should be said. So, we’ll always be looking to deepen that cooperation between our countries,” he said.

The agreement also covers continued cooperation on capability development, including through the trilateral security agreement with the United States known as AUKUS, as well as closer collaboration on undersea warfare, intelligence and military exercises.

The two nations committed to refreshing their defense treaty during the 2023 AUKMIN conference in the U.K.

Under AUKUS, Australia also is developing a fleet of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines with assistance from the U.K. and the U.S.

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