Transcript

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Welcomes Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the Pentagon

Sept. 22, 2021
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III; Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, good morning, Mr. Prime Minister. It is, indeed, an honor to welcome you to the Pentagon, and thanks so much for making the trip and for your focus on our defense relationship.

It is especially great to have you here this month, and we'll celebrate the 70th anniversary of ANZUS. Our enduring bond has been deepened through more than a century of shared sacrifice through every conflict of the modern era. Just days ago, we commemorated 20 years since the 9/11 attacks here at the Pentagon. We'll always be grateful to Australia for invoking the ANZUS Treaty for the first time and for sending forces to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with our troops. And I have to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, I fought alongside many of your troops; been deeply-impressed by their skill and their courage. So we thank you for standing with us to the end of our mission in Afghanistan, and for the close, enduring cooperation of our unbreakable alliance.

Even as -- as we honor the past, our alliance is very much focused on the future and the challenges of the 21st century. And we can see that in your announcement alongside with President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson of the establishment of an enhanced trilateral security partnership among Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. AUKUS is a testament to the strength, resilience and foresight of our relationship, and as President Biden has noticed -- noted, no regional divide separates the interests of our Atlantic and Pacific partners, and AUKUS is designed to build on our existing alliances.

Now, I was honored to host Minister Dutton here last week, and together, we joined Minister Payne and Secretary Blinken for the very productive and far-reaching Australia-United States ministerial consultations. Today, our alignment's stronger than ever, including seeing the region's challenges through a similar lens and sharing the same sense of urgency. So we'll continue to cooperate closely on force posture, strategic capabilities, regional alignment and military operations. And all of this common work strengthens our ability to deter threats through a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Again, Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for being here today, and I look forward to a terrific discussion.

AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, and thank you for your very generous welcome to me and my delegation, and also, of course, hosting both Minister Dutton and Minister Payne last week. It was a very successful set of meetings, as AUSMIN always is.

There are two places in the United States that I think best describe our partnership. Yesterday, I was in New York, and -- where 9/11 struck so fiercely, and here I am today at the Pentagon, where it also struck. And it is a -- it is a clear reminder of the importance of our alliance and what Australia and the United States mean to each other. So as we mark the 70th anniversary of ANZUS and we also remember those terrible events, I think it only encourages more in the partnership that we have.

I particularly want to say thank you to all the men and women of the U.S. defense forces that we served alongside of -- served alongside with -- in Afghanistan, and I also particularly want to thank all of those who were there on the deck in Kabul as together, we engaged in one of the biggest airlifts and evacuations of people in that situation. There is no way Australia would have been able to airlift 4,100 people out of that terrible site were it not for the sacrifice of the U.S. defense forces, and I want to particularly honor those who lost their lives at the Abbey Gate, where Australians themselves had been standing not that long before and as you assisted us evacuate our own people on that -- that last flight that took our own people out who'd been there assisting so many. It was, I think, a -- a symbol, again, of the nature of our partnership.

Australia has always looked to the United States, but we never leave it to the United States, and that is at the heart of our partnership. We both understand our responsibilities in it. We accept them. We share them. We honor them in how we delivered on the ground in so many theaters, and that continues with AUKUS. AUKUS, I agree, Mr. Secretary, is a partnership that builds on the partnerships that we already have, that adds to the partnerships that exist within the region, whether it's the Quad partnerships and relationships, the wonderful relationships we have with ASEAN in the region, but importantly, the relationships with NATO, the relationships with our European partners and bringing that focus to the Indo-Pacific.

So I'm particularly looking forward to discussing how we now take AUKUS forward and the many projects that I know we will have, about how that will create the free and open Indo-Pacific that is so important to us all. So thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your kind hospitality.