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Secretary Antony J. Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a Joint Press Availability [Excerpts] 
December 8, 2022

Secretary Antony J. Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, and Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles at a Joint Press Availability

Office of the Spokesperson
December 6, 2022


Secretary Antony J. Blinken,
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong,
And Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles
At a Joint Press Availability

Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC


SECRETARY BLINKEN:  … . More than seven decades ago the ANZUS Treaty kicked off our shared work to strengthen the fabric of peace in the Pacific.  Our discussions today show that that work continues in earnest not only for the benefit of Australians and Americans and others in the Indo-Pacific, but for people around the world.  This is our 32nd consultation overall.  That such a meeting has persisted for so long shows the enduring importance of the Australian-American alliance.  It transcends parties.  It has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the United States.  It covers the breadth and depth of issues facing our people and it reflects a relationship that will only continue to grow deeper.

Take our work on the climate crisis, which reflects an existential threat to the survival of our people and people everywhere and one that demands a truly global response.  Early this fall, Australia joined our Clean Energy Demand Initiative, which brings together companies and countries to power the clean energy transition.  Already nine American companies have committed to investing at least $2.2 billion to help upgrade Australia’s clean energy infrastructure.  Or take Partners in the Blue Pacific, a new initiative that seeks to work with Pacific Island countries toward our shared vision of a resilient, inclusive, and prosperous Pacific.

One of the ways we’re doing that together is through an initiative focused on pre-placing humanitarian supplies in secure locations across the region so the Pacific Islands can better prepare and respond to any disaster.

Today, we discussed our joint efforts to counter President Putin’s brutal war on Ukraine and to support Ukraine’s energy sector against Russian attacks.  We’re grateful for Australia’s efforts to impose sanctions coordinated with ours – as well as our shared work through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, through which we’re coordinating our aid efforts.

Australia has also shown extraordinary generosity in supporting Ukraine as it defends its territory, contributing more than $440 million in military and humanitarian assistance.

We’re also working together through longstanding multilateral organizations, notably ASEAN.  Both our countries are committed to its centrality, and we’re standing up and revitalizing other bodies to draw on complementary strengths and those of our allies and partners.

In the Quad, along with India and Japan, we’re advancing a shared vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific region.  A key part of that is making sure that goods and ideas can flow freely throughout the region.  Just last week at the Quad Technology Business and Investment Forum in Sydney, leaders from the private sector, academia from across our countries discussed new ways to collaborate on supporting emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and biotech and ensuring that they uphold our democratic values.

In May, together with 13 other like-minded partners representing more than 40 percent of global GDP, we launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, an affirmative economic vision for a region that is free and open, secure and resilient.  IPEF will help our countries advance a number of priorities like combatting corruption, promoting high-standard trade provisions for labor rights and the digital economy, hastening the clean energy transition, preparing for and responding to supply chain disruptions.  We’ll see this collaboration in action next week when the IPEF partners meet in Brisbane to discuss each of these priorities.

Today, we discussed as well how we can continue to advance AUKUS, a vital security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  Our three countries have made significant strides toward Australia obtaining nuclear-powered submarines while adhering to the highest nonproliferation standards.  We’re committed to delivering on that promise at the earliest possible time.

We’re also deepening our collaboration on a number of other key areas, including cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and undersea capabilities that will help us secure our technological edge and our security going forward. We’re increasingly weaving together our alliances in Europe and Asia, in the Atlantic, and across the Pacific because the challenges and threats that those alliances face are increasingly interconnected, and we’re more effective when we stand and work together.

We also discussed our efforts to address challenges posed by the PRC to the international rules-based order, including attempts to disrupt the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, efforts to unilaterally change the status quo and undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and attempts to intimidate other countries through economic coercion.  Australia is no stranger to such efforts, and we reaffirmed that we would stand with them against these pressure tactics.

We also agreed on the need to responsibly manage the relationship with China to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict and to find areas of cooperation – such as on climate, on global health – that would help both our own people as well as people around the world.

Across the breadth and depth of our relationship, one of the most exciting parts to me is the thriving scientific partnership with researchers and scientists working together developing leading technologies.  Earlier this year, I had the chance to visit the University of Melbourne’s biomedical project.  We’ve got American companies like Illumina and IBM conducting genomics research and accelerating progress on quantum computing.  When I arrived, Moderna had recently announced that they would be opening an mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Melbourne, the first such facility of theirs in the Southern Hemisphere.

These are the cutting-edge issues that will help define the 21st century.  Our collaboration between Australia and the United States is helping to lead the way.  Throughout our history, that’s what the Australia-U.S. relationship has always: evolve, grow, and ultimately deliver for our people; and make their lives a little bit more safe, a little bit more secure, a little bit more prosperous.  Today’s AUSMIN was another step towards building that brighter future for all of our people.  It’s wonderful, again, to have you both here, and we’re so grateful for the work that we did today.

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SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Thanks.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong, thank you for traveling to Washington to join us today.  It has been a real pleasure hosting you here along with my good friend and colleague, Secretary Blinken.

Now, we call the relationship between the United States and Australia the unbreakable alliance and for good reason: Australia and the United States have stood shoulder to shoulder in every major conflict for more than a century.  The bond between our democracies and our peoples have been forged by shared sacrifice, shared values, and shared history.  And as we look to the future, those bonds are stronger than they’ve ever been.

That was clear throughout the outstanding discussions that we had today.  We covered a lot of ground.  We spoke about the complex and changing security environment that we face.  We discussed our strong strategic alignment.  And we committed ourselves to concrete steps to deepen our cooperation in both diplomacy and defense.

The United States and Australia share a vision of a region where countries can determine their own futures, and they should be able to seek security, prosperity free from – and prosperity free from coercion and intimidation.  Unfortunately, that vision is being challenged today.  China’s dangerous and coercive actions throughout the Indo-Pacific, including around Taiwan, and toward the Pacific Island countries and in the East and South China Seas threaten regional peace and stability.

And meanwhile, Russia’s cruel and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is also an attack on the rules-based international order that makes countries everywhere more secure.

In the face of these challenges, the United States and Australia stand united and determined to be a force for stability and to work with likeminded partners for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Today, we agreed to deepen our defense cooperation in several important ways, including enhancing our force posture cooperation.  And based upon today’s talks, we will increase rotational presence of U.S. forces in Australia.  That includes rotations of bomber task forces, fighters, and future rotations of U.S. Navy and U.S. Army capabilities.

We’ll also expand our logistics and sustainment cooperation, and that will deepen our interoperability and create more agile and resilient capabilities.  We’ll also continue to find ways to further integrate our defense industrial bases in the years ahead.  And we agreed to enhance trilateral defense cooperation and to invite Japan to integrate into our force posture initiatives in Australia.  These efforts just don’t demonstrate the closeness of our alliance; they also show the work that we’re doing together to deliver tangible results toward our common vision.  I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I’m excited about we’ll get done together in the near future.

So let me close by saying that I know that our bond, our mateship, will serve as a bedrock of peace and security for many years to come.  And so, Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong, thank you again for our discussion today and thank you for all that you do for our enduring alliance.  Thanks.

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QUESTION:  Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken, if I can address you two first.  Almost to the day last year we were told in this same room that there would be increased rotations of U.S. personnel, of fighters, bombers, navy, to Australia.  And really, there hasn’t been a significant increase in that time.  Could you please provide some quantification of what you’ve agreed on today?  And do you get a feeling or do you have any anticipation of what – the message that might send to China?

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Yeah, so what we’ve agreed to do is to increase rotations of our air, land, and sea forces to – and these are rotational forces, obviously – to Australia, to – and that helps, obviously, with our interoperability, and the presence in a theater will certainly help.  The details of those rotations will be worked out by our staffs and announced later; we don’t have specifics to announce to you today, but we do have a commitment between our two countries to in fact do what we just described.

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QUESTION:  … And then my second question is Taiwan and Ukraine-related, given I expect Taiwan was a major topic of discussion today.  Senator Hawley wrote you a letter today arguing that Taiwan is more important for U.S. national interests than Ukraine, and arms transferred to Ukraine are impeding the U.S. ability to supply Taiwan with the weapons it needs.  How do you respond?

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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  … With regard to Taiwan, look, I can’t speak to weapons systems, et cetera.  But I think in fact it’s exactly the opposite, in the sense that China is watching very carefully what’s happening in Ukraine – watching very carefully the response of the United States and countries around the world to the Russian aggression.  And what they’ve seen are countries coming together in extraordinary ways to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to defend itself, to put tremendous pressure on Russia to end its aggression, and as well to make sure that, in the case of NATO, we’re strengthening our own capacity to defend ourselves in case that aggression were to spread.  And I think that has to have an impact on China’s thinking about the future and about what it may be looking at in terms of Taiwan.

We have a strong stake in preserving peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.  This has been the status quo for decades; we’re determined to preserve it.  It’s one of the issues of course that came up in the important discussions that President Biden had with President Xi a few weeks ago.  But the Secretary of Defense is certainly welcome to address the specific question of weapons systems.

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MR PRICE:  We’ll take a final question from Annelise Nielson of Sky News.

QUESTION:  … Secretary Blinken, you’ve stated on quite a few occasions that America won’t leave Australia alone on the field when dealing with China.  In particular, we’ve had a bit of a thaw in diplomatic relations, but we’re still facing some pretty severe economic coercion.  What’s the U.S. doing in practical terms to help Australia with the economic coercion with China?  And specifically, why is the U.S. blocking an appellate court at the World Trade Organization that would be able to adjudicate issues like that we’ve seen with Bali and wine?

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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  … . First, when it comes to Chinese economic coercion, Australia has done an extraordinary job of standing up to that coercion and coming out in a better and stronger place.  I think in a general sense as well as in a specific sense, we’re of course part of that.  We’re Australia’s most important economic partner.  Our trade and investment contributes about seven percent of Australia’s annual economy and, obviously, thousands and thousands of jobs in both countries, in both directions.  Our – this trade and investment relationship is one of the most powerful foundations that we both have, and I think it contributes to Australian resilience when it comes to any kind of economic coercion.

At the same time – and you’ve heard us talk a little bit about this today, but we’re working on this every day – we are all building different kinds of resilience against coercion, including, for example, by working on diversifying supply chains; friendshoring, as Richard said; and making sure that it is difficult for any country to use what economic leverage it has against either of us.  So that’s part and parcel of the work that we’re doing every day.

With regard to the WTO case, I’m afraid I’m just not familiar with it, but I’m happy to come back to you on it.  Thanks.

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