NEWS | March 19, 2021

Austin Stays in Touch With Australian Leaders during Indo-Pacific Trip

By Jim Garamone DOD NEWS

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III continued his outreach to Indo-Pacific allies and partners with a call to Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne even as he was flying to meet with Indian leaders in New Delhi.

Austin made the call to highlight the importance and the strength of the U.S.-Australia Alliance, often called "the Unbreakable Alliance," said David Helvey, acting assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific affairs. Helvey spoke to the press traveling with Austin about the call.

Austin thanked Payne, who also serves temporarily as Australia’s defense minister, for Australia's support in Afghanistan and in the Middle East as part of the Defeat-ISIS campaign. He also praised Australia for the increased investment and involvement in building capacity and capabilities in Indo-Pacific nations. Helvey said Australia is a leading voice in the Indo-Pacific region.

Austin also spoke with Payne about the quadrilateral process. The leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the United States — called the Quad — held a virtual meeting March 12 that discussed the happenings in the Indo-Pacific. While there is a security consulting part to the Quad, it is not a formal treaty. Rather it is a way for like-minded nations to work together, Helvey said.

Austin shared some of his thoughts and reflections on his talks with Japanese and South Korean foreign affairs and defense leaders during his meetings in Tokyo and Seoul.

"It was a good exchange," Helvey said. "And there's a lot of commonality of views and assessments between the United States and Australia on regional security challenges like China and North Korea."

The two leaders committed to stay in touch, and to strengthen the U.S.-Australia Treaty. The defense officials want to increase the linkages among like-minded nations throughout the region in support of common objectives and support the rules-based international order.