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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Richard Marles to the Pentagon

July 13, 2022

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, good afternoon, everyone. I guess I probably should begin this meeting by wishing you a very happy birthday.



SEC. AUSTIN: And we're delighted that you'd choose to spend your birthday with us. So welcome to Pentagon, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister.

MIN. MARLES: Thank you.

SEC. AUSTIN: It's great to see you again, especially after we met in Singapore last month. Our meeting today further underscores the strength of our unbreakable alliance. And for decades, our two great democracies have been bound together by our shared history, our deep friendship and our common values and interests.

The United States and Australia are both standing strong to counter Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, and I was especially pleased to see that Prime Minister Albanese chose to attend the historic NATO summit in Madrid last month. I'm grateful for the Australian -- for Australia's leadership in supporting Ukrainian people as they fight for their lives, their freedom and their democracy. Our two countries are also working closely together to advance the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific that has long strengthened the region's security, stability and prosperity.

And I should acknowledge here the awful and shocking loss last week of Japan's former Prime Minister Abe. He did so much to advance our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today, that vision faces some major challenges. 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.

So today, we'll discuss several ways that we could be working to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific, and that includes our common interest to bolster regional security and strengthen our our alliance and deepen our trilateral cooperation on AUKUS. I might say that I'm very proud of the work that our countries have done to make our alliance even stronger and more capable, and we're eager to continue that work today.

So Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, thanks again for making the trip. We are grateful for your friendship and look forward to continuing to strengthen our alliance. And so thanks for being here, and again, happy birthday.

MIN. MARLES: Well, thank you, Mr. Secretary. I -- it is a real pleasure to be here in this very historic building. And yes, I'm here on my birthday. It's actually a day I try to pretend is not happening. I haven't reconciled myself to my own mortality, so there are things I seem to be in denial about. But it's a real pleasure to be here today.

General, great to see you again, and congratulations again on being made an officer of the Order of Australia. That's a very significant award to be given to a non-citizen, and speaks very much to the contribution you've made to the alliance. Secretary, it was great to meet you in Singapore, and really look forward to building on that relationship here again today.

You're right to acknowledge the tragedy of the assassination of Prime Minister Abe. It's really a tragedy of a global significance. Prime Minister Abe was such a significant leader in Japan, but much more than that, he was a leader for outreach, and as you said, in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the work that he did in helping to establish the Quad, but also engaging in the TPP has been really important in terms of Japan's place in the region and the relationship that we have with them, and you know, at a moment when the Japanese will be in a state of shock we not only acknowledge a great man, but we stand in solidarity with the Japanese people.

The global rules-based order is being put under a pressure that it really hasn't been since the end of the Second World War. We're seeing that in Ukraine -- a long way from Australia, but the principles that are at stake there engage our national interest, which is why we’ve been a significant contributor to the people of Ukraine, I think the largest non-NATO contributor to their assistance. But we see that international rules-based order being put under stress in the Indo-Pacific as well, as China seeks to shape the world around us in a way that we've not seen before. And as it engages in the single biggest military buildup that we have seen in the world since the end of the Second World War, and that is a very significant phenomenon which presents enormous challenges to both of us. And while the pathways are not obvious in respect to that, what is completely clear is that the alliance between our two countries, which is so central to our national security and our outlook in the world, has never been more important. And I think that I'd offer (inaudible) it has been extremely important for us, you know, since the Second World War. We see AUKUS as a new chapter and a real opportunity, and we're looking forward to discussing that. But we cannot express enough how important is our relationship with you, and the alliance at this moment, and it's a real pleasure to be here with the senior leadership in terms of defence from our country to have those discussions with you today.

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, again, it's a delight to have you here, and I look forward to our conversation.

Thanks, everybody.