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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Participates in Trilateral Defense Ministers Meeting With U.K. and Australia Defense Ministers

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III:  Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Secretary Wallace, thank you for coming to Washington for our first AUKUS Defense Ministerial.

Yesterday, at our annual U.S.-Australia Ministerial meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Marles and I spoke about our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, where all countries are free to choose their futures and where international rules are respected. And so today, I'm pleased that Secretary Wallace of the UK is joining us to deepen our trilateral security partnership.

Now, we announced this historic endeavor in September 2021, and the need for AUKUS is even clearer today. More than ever, our three countries share a similar outlook on the key challenges and opportunities confronting our world.

AUKUS will enhance our shared ability to sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, and since creating this trilateral security partnership, our defense forces, industries, and scientific communities have been hard at work.

Over the past 15 months, we've made great progress toward identifying a pathway for Australia to acquire conventionally-armed and nuclear-powered submarines. Today, on behalf of President Biden, I want to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to ensuring that Australia acquires this capability at the earliest possible date and in adherence with the highest non-proliferation standards.

Under the auspices of AUKUS, Australia, the UK and the United States have also accelerated the development of advanced capabilities for our warfighters. I look forward to discussing the significant achievements that we've already made through the AUKUS partnership and our shared vision for the next phase of security cooperation.

So Deputy Prime Minister Marles, Secretary Wallace, thank you for being here today to discuss AUKUS. Thank you for your friendship and for your leadership. I'm proud of our countries' longstanding defense ties and I'm deeply excited about our future cooperation. So thank you very much.

And Deputy Prime Minister?

AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR DEFENCE RICHARD MARLES:  Well, Secretary Austin, Secretary Wallace, it is a joy to be with you both today. We've all been talking about having this moment, in terms of a defense ministers meeting for AUKUS, for some time. So it's great that we've been able to make this happen.

As you said, Secretary Austin, just over a year ago, AUKUS was put in place, which speaks to, I think, a shared mission between our three countries to work together to pursue advanced military capability and do so at a time where the strategic circumstances faced by the world are as complex and precarious as really we've seen since the end of the Second World War.

And central to that is Australia being able to acquire a nuclear-powered, highly capable submarine. And we are deeply grateful for the work that we've been able to do with both the United Kingdom and the United States to enable Australia to acquire that capability.

And it's not lost on us, the significance of the U.S. and the UK working together in transferring this technology to Australia and there has been an enormous amount of work being done by our officials to bring this about, and obviously to bring today about.

I think we -- as we talk today, we're all going to speak to the fact that we're on track to be able to make this announcement, in respect of what will be the optimal pathway for Australia to take in the first part of next year, which is what we always intended to do.

And in terms of other advanced capabilities, again, this is a really important part of the process and we're really pleased with the progress that's happened there as well. So we look forward to being able to have that conversation.

I did want to take the opportunity just to thank the -- all of the people who are behind us because they've -- I can't speak to the amount of work which everyone has done to make this happen, and we're really, really grateful for that. It -- this is a national endeavor for Australia, at a significant scale, but we're really appreciative of the work that's been put in by both the U.S. and the UK.

We're really excited about the conversations we're going to have today, and it's a real pleasure to be with both of you, Lloyd and Ben. I look forward to the discussions we're about to have.

SEC. AUSTIN:  Secretary Wallace?

U.K. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE BEN WALLACE:  Secretary Austin and Deputy Prime Minister, thank you for convening us here in Washington. I'm delighted that we are able to attend together to build on not only strong relationships and alliances, historical at present, but also to take the next step forward in galvanizing our capabilities, our shared values, and upholding the things that we all hold dear, whether that is freedom, democracy, freedom of navigation and rule of law, which is incredibly important to the thing that binds us together now, as it did 71 years ago at Pearl Harbor, which we should not forget.

It was -- took place in the Pacific and countries, (inaudible). Some already engaged, some stood up together and took that fight to the enemy. We are determined to stand together as partners. We come as three members of the Five Eyes, as SIGINT intelligence communities, and trusted and worked together for decades as well.

I think building on that trust and that shared alliance will allow us to make sure that we're ready and match fit for the end of this decade, to defend our values, should they be put under threat again, and I'm delighted that -- not only about submarines, an amazing capability, and Australia is seeking to join that club of highly capable, some of the most complex machines on Earth, to give a strategic reach to Australia, and we will do everything we can in our capability to help support -- to get you that capability, to bring to the best of Australia's skills and its workforces to do so, but also gives our alliances the capability that we will need to stand strong as people threaten us in the future.

So thank you for convening us today and I look forward to talking.

SEC. AUSTIN:  Thank you, Secretary Wallace. Thanks, everybody.