America has promised to stand by Australia in the face of pressure from China following the announcement of a new trilateral security alliance between Australia, Britain and the US.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a joint news conference with Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Friday (Australian time), a day after it was revealed the US would provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarine technology.
Mr Blinken raised concerns about China’s economic pressure against Australia and emphasised the US and Australia had “an unshakeable alliance”.
His comments came as China officially reacted to the historic security pact and warned the alliance risked “severely damaging regional peace … and intensifying the arms race”, the BCC reports.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the deal was “extremely irresponsible” and “narrow minded” and he slammed “the obsolete cold war … mentality”.
Senator Payne and Mr Dutton held talks with their American counterparts Mr Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday morning, Australian time.
The AUKUS partnership, which was announced on Thursday, was a key topic of discussion at the latest round of AUSMIN talks in Washington.
Under the security pact, Australia will gain access to top-secret nuclear-powered submarine technology, with a fleet to be built in Adelaide.
The three governments said the alliance would help to provide peace and stability to the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia and US have also reached new force posture agreements.
Mr Dutton said after the meeting there would be greater air co-operation between the two countries through rotational deployments of all types of US military aircraft to Australia.
The ministers also discussed the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, cyber security and climate change.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Kevin Rudd said the timeline of submarine rollout would leave Australia “strategically naked for 20 years” and he warned against the Morrison government being too “overt” against China.
“It is far better that we develop our kit and equipment as Australia, around a range of contingencies and not engage in loose public rhetorical language about it being directed against one country or another,” Mr Rudd said.
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While in the US, Senator Payne will also attend events at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is due in Washington early next week for the first face-to-face meeting of Quad leaders.
Mr Morrison will meet US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
He said he did not expect Australia’s strategy and stepping up of military spending to attract the ire of China through trade sanctions or other measures.
“I believe and hope we would both share the same objective of a peaceful Indo-Pacific, where the sovereignty and independence of nations is understood and respected, and that enables their own citizens to flourish,” he said.
“It is not an uncommon thing for countries to take decisions in their own strategic interests and to build up their defence capabilities.”