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Austin, Marles Discuss Future of Australia, U.S. Alliance

The meeting between Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles was more of a family reunion than a strategic summit.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and other officials talk at a table as standing journalists film and photograph.
Table Talk
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Richard Marles for talks at the Pentagon, July 13, 2022.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 220713-D-BN624-2065

The two men met in the Pentagon to discuss what Austin called the "unbreakable alliance" between the two countries. The two met in Singapore last month. The Pentagon meeting comes on the heels of the NATO Summit in Madrid, where Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with alliance leaders including President Joe Biden. 

"For decades, our two great democracies have been bound together by shared history, our deep friendship and our common values," Austin said. "And the United States and Australia are both standing strong to counter Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine." 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III stands with another civilian on the Pentagon steps, flanked by honor guard troops.
Pentagon Welcome
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomes Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Richard Marles to the Pentagon for a meeting, July 13, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee, DOD
VIRIN: 220713-D-WA993-2001Y

Austin chairs the Ukraine Defense Contact Group and Australia is a member of that group channeling materials to Ukraine to help defend itself. "I'm grateful for Australia's leadership in supporting the Ukrainian people as they fight for their lives, and our freedom and our democracy," he said.  

Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine challenges the rules-based international order in Europe, and China is challenging the order in the Indo-Pacific region.  

Both Austin and Marles said they were particularly saddened by the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They called Abe a champion of the international order and said he had done much to strengthen the Indo-Pacific's security, stability and prosperity.  

Abe's vision for the region is under attack. "Today that vision faces some major challenges," the secretary said. "China's disruptive and destabilizing actions threaten to undermine our values, our interests and our shared conviction that all states should be free to choose their own paths without coercion or intimidation." 

The two leaders look to discuss several ways to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific. The secretary said he is proud of the work that the United States and Australia have done to make the alliance stronger and more capable.  

An Australian soldier and U.S. Marine hold wire and walk together near brush.
Wire Walk
An Australian Army engineer and a U.S. Marine build a barbed wire fence at Point Fawcett in the Northern Territory, Australia, May 25, 2021, during Crocodile Response, an annual civil-military exercise to strengthen humanitarian response capability between Australia, the United States and Indonesia.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Micha Pierce
VIRIN: 210525-M-MH051-2003
Five airmen sit at the back of an aircraft watching another aircraft fly behind.
Teak Action
U.S. and Australian airmen watch an MC-130J Air Commando II fly off the coast of New South Wales, Australia, July 3, 2021, during Teak Action. The bilateral exercise focuses on sharing tactics and procedures to foster increased interoperability across the Indo-Pacific.
Photo By: Air Force 1st Lt. Joshua Thompson
VIRIN: 210703-F-OD463-4003C

Marles said the global rules-based order is being put under a pressure not seen since the end of World War II. The Russian attack on Ukraine – though thousands of miles from Australia – is a concern to the nation. He noted that the invasion challenges Australian principles and Australian national interests. He said this is why Australia  is "the largest non-NATO contributor to their assistance." 

China "seeks to shape the world around it in a way that we've not seen before," Marles said. He noted that China is also engaging in a huge military build-up, "that is a very significant phenomenon, which presents enormous challenges to both of us." 

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