Countering the aggression of China is best accomplished by surrounding the Red Dragon in common purpose with US allies and friends. Building a more integrated defense perimeter to deter the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from hostilities against Taiwan was advanced by former President Donald Trump and his initiative to join with Britain to sell nuclear submarines and the accompanying technology to Australia. In the same spirit, President Joe Biden’s administration has reached out to Indo-Pacific nations to create mutually beneficial security collaborations. To that end, US national security leaders met with their counterparts in the South Pacific to discuss how to strengthen regional defense ties.
US Secretary of Defense Extends Indo-Pacific Outreach
On July 27, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, on a trip to the Indo-Pacific, met with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape. Discussion centered on touting the virtues of the recently inked Defense Cooperation Agreement, which will allow Papua New Guinea personnel to serve on board US Coast Guard vessels to fight human trafficking and illegal fishing. The Department of Defense news service explained:
“The agreement is important, the secretary said. It will better enable the countries to work together to help the Papua New Guinea Defense Force become the security guarantor for the country that leaders want it to be. Austin stressed that the United States is not seeking permanent basing in the country. He said he sees the agreement as a ‘fundamental, foundational framework, to deepen the defense relationship.’”
Following the meetings in Papua New Guinea, Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined Austin to participate in the 33rd annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN). Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, Blinken, and Austin issued a joint statement summing up the deliberations, addressing the most pressing issues:
“They reiterated their strong opposition to destabilizing actions in the South China Sea, such as unsafe encounters at sea and in the air, the militarization of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource development … The principals reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and their shared opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo.”
Putting teeth in the joint statement and sending a message of resolve, the United States and Australia agreed on a practical application of their words. “The United States will expand its military-industrial base by helping Australia manufacture guided missiles and rockets for both countries within two years,” Rod McGuirk reported for the Associated Press. The purpose is to create a “ramped up defense cooperation to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific,” McGuirk explained. The agreement included “the establishment of the Australian Submarine Agency on 1 July 2023.” Additionally, the joint statement allowed for Australian government participation in the “US submarine industrial base” as a means “to progressively develop the skills, knowledge, and expertise required to operate, maintain, and steward nuclear-powered submarines.”
Expanded Indo-Pacific Training
The United States and Australia have had an enduring and effective military relationship. While down under, Austin and Marles visited troops participating in the biannual combined Exercise Talisman Saber 2023. “Talisman Sabre began as a simple, bilateral exercise featuring Australian and US forces, but it has grown to include Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany,” Jim Garamone reported for Department of Defense News. This year’s training event included more than 30,000 participants, nearly doubling the 2021 event on which Liberty Nation reported.
The United States working seamlessly with its allies and friends to defend the Straits of Taiwan and the rest of the South China Sea sends a message to would-be aggressors. The outreach by Blinken and Austin was essential to creating a bulwark able to blunt Chinese Communist Party expansion in the Indo-Pacific.
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