The defense leaders of the United States, Japan and Australia met today to strengthen the defense of the rules-based, international order that China and Russia are trying to dismantle.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted Richard Marles, Australia's deputy prime minister and defense minister, and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii to chart the way forward in the trilateral alliance.
Austin said the meeting is a way for the nations to build on their already close partnership. "America is proud to count Australia and Japan among our very closest allies," he said at the start of the meeting. "For decades, our three democracies have worked shoulder-to-shoulder as an anchor for stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the globe."
The three countries share common values and common purposes, the secretary said, and are willing to defend an order that respects the rights of all nations to go about their business without bullying and intimidation.
"But today, that vision is threatened by autocratic countries that peddle disinformation and defy international rules and rely on coercion and intimidation," Austin said. "We are deeply concerned by China's increasingly aggressive and bullying behavior in the Taiwan Strait and elsewhere in the region."
He also said the democracies have been drown closer together in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its brutal war that threatens the very existence of the country.
Australia is halfway around the world from Ukraine, but the war is still felt there, and Australia has provided support and equipment to the embattled nation. "The global, rules-based order is being pressured in a way that we've not seen in many, many decades," Marles said before the meeting. "We're seeing that in Eastern Europe with the unprovoked aggression of Russia against Ukraine. And we are standing with Ukraine because we see that the principles which are engaged in that conflict go directly to Australia's national interest because our interest lies in the upholding of the global rules-based order."
Marles said China is exerting that same pressure in Australia's backyard and standing together is the way forward. "We are aligned strategically today as closely as we ever have been," he noted. "But that strategic alignment is built upon relationships of deep affection between Australia and the United States, between Australia and Japan, and between Japan and the United States. We see the trilateral between our three countries as only growing deeper and stronger, and we look very much forward today to pursuing that agenda."
Hamada said Japan, too, believes the rules-based structure is under attack. "Today, the international community is faced with the severe security environments due to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, China's unilateral change of status by force in the South and East China seas, and [the] remarkable development of North Korea's nuclear and missile-related technologies among others," he said through a translator. "The foundation of the international order has been undermined."
Austin said the trilateral alliance makes the region safer. "I look forward to strengthening our trilateral defense cooperation today, including reaching out together in the region and expanding our trilateral military activities and deepening our technology cooperation," he said. "Working together strengthens our integrated deterrence, and it moves us all toward a safer and more prosperous region."