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Austin to Meet With Key Regional Allies on Upcoming Hawaii Trip

A person in a business suit stands with U.S. and Australian flags in the background.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III addresses the media during a joint news conference with Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles at U.S. Indo-Pacific headquarters, Camp Smith, Hawaii, Oct. 1, 2022.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 221001-D-TT977-0205Y

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will meet with key regional allies this week as he travels to Hawaii to preside over the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command change of command ceremony.  

Austin is expected to hold a series of engagements with his counterparts from Australia, Japan and the Philippines, further marking what defense officials say is historic progress toward regional security integration.  

"Our partners across the region are drawing closer to each other, they're drawing closer to us and, together, we're doing more than ever to advance our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific," a senior defense official said today while previewing the engagements.   

On Thursday, Austin will meet with Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles. 

Two people wearing business suits shake hands.
Leaders Meet
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomes Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Camp Smith, Hawaii, Oct. 1, 2022.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 221001-D-TT977-0002Y

The meeting follows Australia's announcement last week of its new national defense strategy which commits to a 20% increase in defense spending over the next decade.  

The two leaders are expected to discuss U.S. force posture in Australia, as well as cooperation between the two countries to strengthen Australia's defense industrial base through the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordinance Enterprise – a long term initiative to bolster research, development and manufacturing of critical weapons systems.  

The defense official previewing the discussion underscored the close ties between the two officials, calling the Australian minister one of Austin's "most constant interlocutors, not just in the Indo-Pacific but around the world." 

Austin is also scheduled to meet with Japanese Minister of Defense Kihara Minoru. The meeting follows Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's official state visit to the U.S. last month where the two countries announced significant strides in strengthening defense cooperation. 

In a joint news conference during the visit, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S., Japan and Australia will partner in creating a networked air defense architecture. The U.S. and U.K. will also be standing up trilateral military exercises with Japan, among other deliverables.  

In the upcoming meeting, the two defense leaders are expected to expand upon discussions that include command and control, regional security, and the deepening cooperation between the U.S. and Japan on defense industrial and science and technology matters. 

In his meetings with his counterparts, Austin is also expected to discuss U.S. force posture in Australia and Japan and security throughout the region.  

Following the bilateral meetings with his counterparts, Austin will convene the 13th trilateral defense ministers' meeting among the U.S., Australia and Japan.  

Officials described an agenda focusing on a range of regional topics and how the three countries can further expand initiatives aimed at peace and security throughout the Indo-Pacific. 

The three leaders will also discuss cooperation on science and technology, and they are expected to sign a new trilateral agreement outlining cooperation on research, development, test and evaluation for strategic capabilities.  

The agreement encourages standardization and interoperability on defense technology and aims to make the countries' already strong ties on science and technology more efficient and cost effective. 

Austin will then host a quadrilateral meeting with the Philippines Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro and their Japanese and Australian counterparts.  

The meeting marks the second-ever joint meeting among the four countries' defense ministers. 

The defense leaders are expected to discuss ways to strengthen security among the four nations.  

These discussions come at a critical time for defense cooperation throughout the region, a defense official said, noting China's recent harassment of Philippine vessels operating in the South China Sea. 

"Japan and Australia have been some of our most vocal and staunchest allies in speaking up about the completely unacceptable nature of this behavior," the official said.  

The official also noted the Philippines' efforts to highlight China's concerning behavior throughout the region.  

"How we, as allies, not only operate together, but how we think about addressing the really worrisome operational behavior and coercion that we see taking place in a number of places across the region, is obviously a topic that we're going to focus on together," the official said.  

On Friday, Austin will preside over the Indo-Pacom change of command ceremony.  

During the ceremony, Austin is expected to recognize outgoing Indo-Pacom commander Navy Adm. John Aquilino's efforts that were instrumental in strengthening U.S. partnerships throughout the region.  

Four military ships transit open waters in formation.
Partners at Sea
Australia, Japan, the Philippines and the United States conduct combined maritime activity in the South China Sea, April 7, 2024.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Liz Dunagan
VIRIN: 240407-N-XF387-1032Y

Austin will also recognize Aquilino's successor, Navy Adm. Samuel Paparo, and the thousands of U.S. service members who serve in the region.  

Additionally, the secretary will have an opportunity to meet with the leaders of the Freely Associated States, which include the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

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