Related ministers and contacts
The Hon Richard Marles MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister - 02 6277 7800 - DPM.Media@defence.gov.au
2 October 2022
SUBJECTS: Australia-US Alliance; Indo-Pacific region; Ukraine NATO membership; Russia-Ukraine conflict; AUKUS.
US SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Good afternoon, everyone. Deputy Prime Minister Marles it's great to see you again and thanks for making the trip to Hawaii.
The United States and Australia have longstanding ties of trust and friendship, and we're both deeply dedicated to freedom and to democracy. We also share an unwavering commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. A region where all countries are free to choose their own destinies, and where states respect international law and where disputes are resolved peacefully, without coercion or intimidation. These shared convictions run deep, and they are the foundation of our unbreakable alliance.
Today, the region and the world face a growing challenge from autocratic countries attempting to change the status quo through threats, coercion, provocative military activities, and even naked aggression. We're deeply concerned by China's aggressive escalatory and destabilising military activities in the Taiwan Strait and elsewhere in the region. And we're meeting at an especially important moment, as nations of goodwill have rallied together to oppose Russia's unprovoked and cruel invasion of Ukraine. The United States and Australia are united in opposing actions that threaten peace and stability in the rules-based international order. As President Biden told the UN General Assembly just days ago, the United States flatly rejects, “the use of violence and war to conquer nations or expand borders through bloodshed”.
This context sets the stage for a valuable meeting today. The Deputy Prime Minister and I had a very productive discussion about steps that we can take as allies to enhance deterrence and strengthen security in the Indo-Pacific. We talked about enhancing our interoperability, and expanding our operations, and advancing our ongoing force posture initiatives, and deepening our defence industrial cooperation.
We talked about AUKUS, which I'm pleased to say has made tremendous progress over the past year. We also had a good discussion on the renewed importance of the trilateral cooperation with Japan, and I should note that we had a great meeting with the Japanese Minister of Defense Hamada earlier this morning.
So, Richard, thank you again, for all that you do for our shared security. This alliance has a proud past and a bold future, and I look forward to continuing our close cooperation. And so I'll turn it over you, Mr Deputy Prime Minister.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well, thank you, Secretary Austin, it's been a real pleasure to be here in Honolulu today, and to be able to meet once again with my good friend, Secretary Lloyd Austin, about the future of the Australian-United States Alliance.
We meet today at a time when there is increasing pressure on the global rules-based order. We're seeing that in Eastern Europe with the unprovoked aggression of Russia, in respect of Ukraine. But we see it in the Indo-Pacific as well. As we watch China seek to shape the world around us in a way that we have not seen before, it presents real challenges for those countries which seek to uphold the global rules-based order. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, freedom of navigation in bodies of water like the South China Sea and the East China Sea, are fundamentally important to Australia's national interest. And it is fundamentally important that like-minded countries are working together to uphold that rules-based order in those areas, as well as around Taiwan.
We really appreciated the trilateral meeting that we had today with Minister Hamada of Japan. Again, Japan and Australia are very closely aligned - two countries which have a deep and close relationship. But central to the Australian-Japanese relationship is that both of us are American allies. We see that as critically important in terms of our strategic landscape, and our strategic view.
Today we've had, as Secretary Austin has said, a very productive conversation about the progress of AUKUS, which is going along very well. I want to thank all the officials from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States for the power of work that they have put in to date in progressing AUKUS. We are on track to making an announcement around the optimal pathway that Australia will pursue in relation to acquiring nuclear-powered submarines and to make that announcement in the first part of next year, and it was great with Secretary Austin to affirm progress there.
We also had a very good conversation about how we can make our defence industrial bases closer and seamless, so that we can be sharing and progressing defence capability at the fastest possible rate. We had a really good conversation around US force posture. Right now we have the Marine rotation in Darwin, which is a very important initiative in terms of Australia's national interest, but it's, we hope, a great opportunity for the US Marines in terms of their training in Northern Australia. But we want to look at other ways in which we can build upon American force posture and doing that in cooperation with Australia.
With all of this we have in mind the next meeting at AUSMIN which will happen before the end of the year, and we had a good conversation about the kind of concrete outcomes that will come from AUSMIN.
But at the heart of today's meeting, is really a sense of there being a strategic alignment between the United States and Australia, which has always been there but has never been greater than it is right now. That strategic alignment in the form of the alliance is built on a relationship of deep affection - deep affection, and shared values. That is a very good basis upon which we can meet a very challenging world.
JOURNALIST: Thank you both for doing this. Question to both of you, Ukraine has asked for an accelerated accession to join NATO, and I'm wondering, do both of you think this is a good idea? Is this something that you support?
And then secondly, to Secretary Austin, in your discussions today, was there conversation about expanding the US’ rotational troop presence - or the need to expand rotational troop presence – in Australia?
SECRETARY AUSTIN: On the first question, as we've said before, we are committed to supporting NATO's open door policy. But how that proceeds is really an issue that's worked out between the 30 countries in NATO who vote on this, and yes, the aspiring country. And so that work will have to be done in the future. But right now, we're focused on doing everything we can to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to be successful, and we're seeing some really good effects being created by the Ukrainian forces right now, as they continue to work to take back occupied territory.
On the issue of force posture and rotations, certainly, we discussed the utility, the great advantage that we enjoy as a result of those - great benefit we enjoy as a result of those rotations. And certainly, we hope to do more in the future, but don't have any announcements to make.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MARLES: On the question of NATO, we would leave that question to NATO members - say that obviously as a non-NATO country.
But we really see it is very important that we are supporting Ukraine in what we are now imagining has the potential to be a protracted conflict. So we are thinking about how that support can be provided to Ukraine over a longer period of time, to put Ukraine in a position where ultimately this conflict can be resolved on its terms. And that has to be our objective. The unprovoked aggression from Russia in respect of Ukraine, is such a flouting of the UN Charter, of the global-rules based order, it must not be allowed to stand. That's why Australia feels that the issues that are at stake in Ukraine, albeit a place that is a long way from Australia, are of such importance that they engage Australia's national interests. So we are working with the Ukrainian Government about how we can continue to provide support to Ukraine over the long term to enable them to be in a position to resolve this conflict.
JOURNALIST: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, the Ukrainian forces have entered the city of Lyman in one of the four region annexed by Russia. Do you think that this development on the battlefield is going to change the likelihood of a nuclear response?
And for you, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, I know you didn't decide yet what kind of submarine you want to buy. But when do you think you can get the delivery of the first one?
SECRETARY AUSTIN: On the first issue, whether or not the capture of Lyman is significant, absolutely it's significant. We're very encouraged by what we're seeing right now. Lyman sits astride the supply lines of the Russians, and they've used those routes to push men and material down to the south and to the west, and without those routes, it'll be more difficult. So this presents a sort of a dilemma for the Russians going forward. And we think the Ukrainians have done great work to get there and to begin to occupy the city.
What it means in terms of potential escalation, I won't speculate on that. But what it does mean for the battlefield, is that the Ukrainians continue to make progress and they continue to present problems to the Russians that they'll have to resolve. And again, we all have to be encouraged by what we're saying.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MARLES: It's a good question. You don't build a nuclear-powered submarine quickly, and so the question of when we would be able to have the first submarine is one which is very pertinent. And it is so because our existing submarine capability, the Collins class submarines, were imagined to start to come out of service in the middle of this decade. Clearly, we have made the decision to extend the life of the Collins class submarines, but we need to be thinking about how we acquire a nuclear-powered submarine in a way where we minimise and plug any capability gap that might arise by virtue of that timing. This question is really central to the work that's underway right now, and we're on target to make our announcements in the first part of next year. But in making those announcements, it will not just be what submarine we're going with, but how quickly we can get it, and to the extent that there is any capability gap that arises how that capability gap can be resolved. Because it's critically important, given the strategic circumstances that we face, that there is an evolving submarine capability in Australia from this day, right through to the day where the first nuclear-powered submarine enters the water.
JOURNALIST: Thank you very much. Two questions to the Secretary: could you tell us how the trilateral defence cooperation with Japan and Australia will fit into the US grand strategy to address rising challenges of China? Do you think this way might be useful to prepare for contingency in the Taiwan Strait?
And secondly, I want to ask you about the US logistics capability in Asia, the Indo-Pacific is very large geographically, so logistics will be a challenge moving forward. Are you concerned that the US logistics capabilities is not sufficient to support operations in a contested environment? What do you expect from allies such as Australia and Japan on this issue?
SECRETARY AUSTIN: So first on the issue of how the trilat contributes to our efforts in the Indo Pacific. These are three countries with significant capacity, strong democracies, and shared values. And not only that, we have a common vision for how things should progress in the region. We remain focused on maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. So the things that we are doing together, the things that we will continue will do in the future together, I think will help us ensure that we can maintain that freedom of navigation, and the ability to navigate the skies in the region as well.
In terms of how important logistics are to us, well there's no question that - any war fighter will tell you, any Secretary of Defense will tell you - that logistics are critical. Because of that, it stands to reason that any adversary would try to try to interdict your ability to sustain yourself. We recognise that, and because of that, we will do everything that's necessary to make sure that we can sustain ourselves. This is something that our commanders think about on a daily basis, this is something that our secretaries of the services think about, we plan on, we create capability, increase capability, to ensure that we can sustain an effort in a contested environment. So it will be a challenge because of evolving capabilities that adversaries have and create. But nonetheless, we're pretty good at this. And we will be successful if we're required to do something like that.
JOURNALIST: Hi, Mr. Secretary. Good to see you again. Sir, yesterday we went and we spoke with component commanders, and I was I was really struck by the amount of partnered operations, exercises - I mean, they spoke about the Operation Pitch Black in Australia, and how that how that worked together. And you look at the example in Ukraine and the Ukraine contact group, 50 plus nations working through that. And yet there is still a significant number of Americans who don't see the use of alliances. Given the pacing threat of China, what do you say to people like that?
SECRETARY AUSTIN: Well, I say that if you look at what we have done around the globe, and I would ask that Deputy Prime Minister Marles comment on this as well, because I think we see this eye to eye. But our allies and partners bring significant capability, and not only in terms of what they bring to the fight, but the access, basing rights, all of those things contribute to our overall effort. And quite frankly, it's what our adversaries worry about most - our ability to work together with likeminded partners and allies, and that really magnifies our warfighting capability. So, I think alliances and partnerships are critical, and that's why you've seen us work hard to strengthen partnerships and alliances in the region. This is, I think, my fifth visit to the region since I've been Secretary of Defense. I'll make a lot more visits over the coming years. But I think this is critical.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MARLES: Well from an Australian point of view, as I said earlier, our alliance with the United States is completely central to our national security and to our worldview, and the Alliance has never been more important than it is now. So the Alliance for Australia is fundamentally important, and it enjoys huge public support within Australia.
Looked at more broadly, the observation I'd make is that America is a country which does alliances. Others don’t necessarily do it. And what that means is that America is a country that works with others, and seeks to work with those in the global community, which says everything about the United States role as a global leader. And for countries around the world who share a commitment to the global rules-based order, it is profoundly important that we are working as closely as we can right now, and that builds stability within our world. You know, from an Australian point of view, obviously our alliance is important. But as we look north from Australia and see the alliance between the United States and Japan, that to us is a pillar of security within East Asia and within the Pacific. The fact of the matter is that in the world today, America’s system of alliances is profoundly important. It is the edge. It matters deeply in terms of providing security around the world and it matters deeply in terms of providing security in the Indo-Pacific.
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