The 28th talks between the United States and Australia were an excellent opportunity to bolster the security relationship and reaffirm the steadfast alliance and close collaboration between the two nations, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said today.
Mattis and Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo hosted Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Defense Minister Marise Payne yesterday and today for the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, California.
During a news conference following the talks, the defense secretary said the two nations in the last year have strengthened their defense cooperation in many tangible ways — finalizing their respective national security and defense strategies to address shared threats, and increasing their coordination of joint-capabilities development.
“We’ve enhanced our interoperability in our cooperation in the [Indo-Pacific] region through [Rim of the Pacific] and other exercises that’s continuing our 100-year tradition of teamwork — or ‘mateship’ as our friends from Down Under call it,” Mattis said.
Cyber Memorandum Signed
The defense secretary and Payne signed a memorandum of understanding to enable both countries to do research and development and combine their cyber capabilities.
A Marine Corps rotational force in Darwin, Australia, “reached the previously agreed-upon number of 2,500 on a timeline determined by our host and partner, Australia,” Mattis noted. “These actions, to borrow a phrase from Minister Payne, demonstrate that the United States and Australia will walk the walk in the Indo-Pacific.”
The two countries share the same strategic goal: to ensure a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific, where nations large and small are respected and accorded the protection of international law, he said.
“The joint work plan we put forth today helped bring this goal to fruition with concrete steps to help U.S.-Australia cooperation across our governments by further integrating our combined military operations and committing to step up U.S.-Australian cooperation and engagement across the region, including the Pacific islands,” Mattis said.
Keeping Pressure on North Korea
The defense secretary said the four officials also agreed to keep the pressure on the North Korean regime’s denuclearization through the enforcement of the U.N. Security Council’s international sanctions, imposed with the council’s unanimous backing to prevent ship-to-ship transfers of energy supplies.
“We have also partnered on defense innovation,” Mattis said. “There, we will explore all opportunities for deeper defense industry collaboration, now that Australia is included in the U.S. national technology and industrial base.”
Overall, discussions the two nations centered on cooperation on numerous issues that strengthen U.S.-Australian response to various security challenges, he said.
“Australia has been an unwavering friend, standing with us through thick and thin,” Mattis said. “And it was demonstrated by being the first ally on the ground beside us in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attack on America — an attack that cost 11 Australian citizens their lives during the hit on New York City.”
And the United States does not forget the families of the Australian soldiers who have fallen alongside U.S. service members, he added.
“I’m confident our enduring and unflappable ‘mateship’ will continue to grow and flourish for another 100 years,” Mattis said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)