THE Australia-US alliance has never been stronger, Defence Minister David Johnston said today at the end of the 28th AUSMIN Ministerial Consultation held in Washington.
After his first official visit to the United States as Defence Minister, where he and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met with key senior US officials, Senator Johnston said he was proud to say our Alliance relationship is the strongest it has ever been.
“As a new Defence Minister representing a new Government, this was an important opportunity to underline this Government’s strong commitment to further strengthening the Alliance with the US,” Senator Johnston said.
“Discussions at AUSMIN 2013 were very valuable and frank across a broad range of issues of vital strategic and military interest to both countries.”
Senator Johnston said in concert with Foreign Minister Bishop and her US counterpart, Secretary of State Kerry, he was able to progress a number of important Defence matters with his US counterpart, Secretary Hagel, including:
• signing a joint Statement of Principles that provides a common vision for progressing the US force posture initiatives in northern Australia;
• agreement to commence negotiations on a binding agreement to support future defence cooperation involving the US rotational presence in northern Australia;
• signing a Memorandum of Understanding to govern the arrangements for the relocation of a unique, advanced US space surveillance telescope to Western Australia; and,
• agreement to examine opportunities to expand cooperation between Australia and the US on ballistic missile defence.
“In both AUSMIN and other meetings with senior US officials, I discussed the increasingly important geostrategic role of the Asia-Pacific region.”
“In these discussions, it was universally recognised that our own prosperity and security are inextricably linked to the countries of this region, and we both firmly committed to enduring comprehensive engagement with these countries.”
“The way forward on implementing the US force posture initiatives in Australia was also a key discussion point, both at AUSMIN and in meetings with senior US officials.”
“Discussions were highly productive and I am pleased that we have agreed on a way forward to setting future implementing arrangements.”
Senator Johnston said over time, the US force posture initiatives in Australia will form an important part of our defence and security partnership, as they provide opportunities for high-end cooperation between Australia and the US, and to increase cooperation and capacity building with regional countries, including on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
“My discussions over the past few days have reaffirmed the strength and continued commitment of Australia to our Alliance relationship, which remains the cornerstone of Australia’s strategic and security architecture, and will remain a positive and powerful force in the region,” Senator Johnston said.