On December 7, 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosted the Honourable Richard Marles MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Australia, and the Right Honourable Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence, United Kingdom, at the Pentagon to discuss the Australia-United Kingdom-United States Security Partnership (AUKUS).
The Secretary of Defense, Deputy Prime Minister, and Secretary of State for Defence reviewed the significant progress to date on the trilateral effort to support Australia’s acquisition of conventionally-armed, nuclear powered submarines and the trilateral development of advanced capabilities. They emphasised that AUKUS will make a positive contribution to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region by enhancing deterrence. The Secretaries and Deputy Prime Minister expressed their confidence in continued progress ahead of the end of the 18-month consultation period regarding naval nuclear propulsion and announcement on the optimal pathway by the President and Prime Ministers in early 2023.
The Secretaries and Deputy Prime Minister highlighted the exceptional progress that has been made on trilateral efforts to identify the optimal path for Australia to acquire conventionally-armed, nuclear powered submarine capability at the earliest possible date. They reiterated their shared commitment to set and uphold the highest standards for nuclear nonproliferation, and welcomed the ongoing, extensive and productive engagement that has been carried out with the International Atomic Energy Agency to date.
The Secretaries and Deputy Prime Minister endorsed efforts to orient capability development to accelerate near-term delivery of technologies that will meet our militaries’ requirements to enhance capability and increase interoperability. These include initiatives for advanced trilateral maritime undersea intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and use of each country’s autonomous systems to enhance maritime domain awareness. They further noted the role recent exercises have played in demonstrating and testing advanced capabilities, and approved plans to pursue additional demonstrations of several collaborative initiatives—including hypersonic and autonomous systems—in the 2023-2024 timeframe and beyond.
Trilateral capability development will benefit from targeted engagement with defence industry and academic communities within and across our national ecosystems. The three countries intend to intensify engagement with these communities beginning in calendar year 2023. Deeper government, academic, and defence industrial base cooperation on advanced systems will require sustained efforts to continue to improve information and technology sharing. The Secretaries and Deputy Prime Minister reaffirmed their commitment to ongoing work within national systems to enable more robust sharing in these areas.
The Secretaries and Deputy Prime Minister committed to continued openness and transparency with international partners on AUKUS. They further emphasised that AUKUS is a strategic partnership focused on enhancing regional stability and safeguarding a free and open Indo-Pacific where conflicts are resolved peacefully and without coercion. They confirmed that AUKUS will complement AUKUS partners’ engagement with existing regional architecture, including ASEAN and the Pacific Islands Forum.
Defence Secretary joins AUKUS partners in landmark first meeting
UK Defence leaders have visited Washington to hold talks with US and Australian partners.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace met with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Australia Richard Marles today for the first meeting of the AUKUS defence ministers.
AUKUS is a trilateral security partnership announced in September 2021, comprising Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Meeting at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., all three nations reiterated their shared commitment to the partnership and reviewed progress on identifying a conventionally armed, nuclear‑powered submarine for the Royal Australian Navy.
They also agreed plans for joint military exercises in 2023 and 2024 which will further enhance partners’ abilities to operate together.
UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said: “This first trilateral meeting is a landmark moment in the AUKUS partnership.AUKUS reflects the unique level of trust and cooperation the UK shares with its US and Australian partners, and I look forward to enhancing our technologies and capabilities together. Discussions also covered the development of advanced capabilities including hypersonic weapons and undersea intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.”
Deputy Prime Minister the Hon. Richard Marles of Australia said: “AUKUS is a partnership built on trust, commitment and determination in the service of a secure and stable Indo-Pacific. Together we hope to be able to progress developments in advanced capabilities and discuss the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.”
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said: “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. The Defence Secretary and his counterparts also committed to continued transparency with international partners on AUKUS, emphasising that the partnership will complement existing security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific such as the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) and engage closely with them.”
A Joint Statement was issued following the meeting outlining AUKUS’ progress so far, as well as future commitments.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also conducted bilateral talks with his US and Australian counterparts.
Speaking with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the Defence Secretary welcomed the publication of the new US National Defense Strategy which provides a narrative on Russia and China which strongly aligns with the UK’s own Integrated Review.
The Defence Secretary thanked Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Australia Richard Marles for the decision to deploy Australian Defence Force personnel to the UK to support the UK-led training programme for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which will commence in January 2023. The pair also discussed opportunities for even greater defence collaboration between the UK and Australia, in addition to the AUKUS partnership.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, and the Ministry of Defence’ Permanent Secretary David Williams were also in Washington for the AUKUS trilateral meeting. Both had separate meetings with their counterparts to discuss US-UK nuclear cooperation, support to Ukraine, and progress on the AUKUS partnership.
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