AUSMIN details plans to increase US military presence in Australia

Canberra and Washington have committed to improving logistics at Australian airfields, including at bases in the country’s north, to support increased rotations of US bombers and fighter aircraft.

Japan will also be invited to play an increased role in force posture initiatives in Australia.

Details of the need for more ‘agile’ logistics for US forces are contained in a statement released after today’s AUSMIN ministerial talks in Washington between an Australian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

The US also reaffirmed its support for Australia’s guided weapons and explosive ordnance enterprise, which is intended to quickly improve the nation’s ability to deter a more powerful aggressor and provide the ability to maintain supplies in a crisis.

The project’s goal is to maintain, repair and overhaul more priority munitions in Australia to improve stocks. That would involve robust technology and capability collaboration being undertaken across the alliance. It was crucial to combine strengths to effectively respond to the tougher strategic environment, the joint communiqué said.

The principals committed to strengthening efforts to better streamline and facilitate technology transfers and information sharing, including under the Australia–US Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty. They also committed to work closely on the future E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft, including through the training of US Air Force personnel by the Royal Australian Air Force in Australia, and to increase space cooperation and space domain awareness and strengthen assured access to space through future bilateral space arrangements.

Along with these measures would come enhanced efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change and to deal with its strategic consequences.

The AUSMIN communiqué emphasised the importance of all countries managing strategic competition responsibly and committed the two countries to work together to ensure competition doesn’t escalate into conflict. The US and Australia said they looked to China to do the same and said they planned to engage Beijing on risk-reduction and transparency measures. They encouraged China to promote stability and transparency in the area of nuclear weapons.

The goal of the planned infrastructure development in Australia is to support enhanced air cooperation by significantly increasing resources at ‘bare’ bases, which now have minimal facilities, so that they can support a build-up of US air forces at short notice and sustain their operations for longer.

The principals affirmed that the US would continue the rotational presence of air, land and naval forces in Australia.

Priority locations in Australia will be identified to support this enhanced US presence with associated infrastructure including runway improvements, parking aprons, fuel infrastructure, explosive ordnance storage infrastructure, and facilities to support the workforce.

Providing the logistics to support this increased military presence has been recognised as a ‘key line of effort’ and military stores, munitions and fuel will be prepositioned in Australia to support US capabilities and to demonstrate interoperability on logistics through joint exercises.

The AUSMIN communiqué emphasised the importance to economic and national security of diverse, resilient and sustainable supplies of critical minerals throughout the energy-transition value chain. ‘Both countries,’ it said, ‘are committed to working bilaterally and with like-minded countries through forums such as the Minerals Security Partnership, Energy Resource Governance Initiative, Conference on Critical Materials and Minerals, and International Energy Agency to identify and develop critical minerals extraction, processing, and manufacturing opportunities to secure supply chains essential to clean energy, electric vehicles, semiconductors, aerospace, and defence, among other sectors.’

The principals said the partners in the AUKUS security pact, the Australia, the UK and the US, had made significant progress on developing the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability at the earliest date possible.

They said the three nations were on track to announce details of that pathway by early 2023, as scheduled. The AUKUS partners committed to setting the highest possible non-proliferation standards and to continue working transparently with the International Atomic Energy Agency towards an approach that will strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Along with the focus on submarines, the AUSMIN principals praised the AUKUS partners’ efforts to cooperate on the development of advanced capabilities for deterrence and operational effectiveness.

Both countries plan to work with industry and international partners to promote high environmental, social and governance standards for the production and processing of critical minerals.

To strengthen the US land presence, increased locations will be identified for US Army and US Marine Corps forces to carry out exercises and maintain regional engagement, including providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support to the region.

The communiqué affirmed the importance of cooperation with China on issues of shared interest including climate change, pandemic threats, non-proliferation, countering illicit and illegal narcotics, the global food crisis and macroeconomic issues. The US and Australia also committed to enhancing deterrence and resilience through coordinated efforts to offer Indo-Pacific nations support to resist subversion and coercion of any kind.

The two countries undertook to redouble their commitment to cooperating with the Pacific islands on climate change, resilient infrastructure and maritime security, and to supporting Pacific regional institutions.

The principals condemned Russia’s ‘illegal and immoral’ invasion of Ukraine. They called on Russia to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its forces from within Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders.

The communiqué stated that Russia’s nuclear threats were a serious and unacceptable menace to the peace and security of the entire international community, and that the use of nuclear weapons would be met with resolute responses by the international community.

The principals ‘committed to continued support for Ukraine’s rightful resistance to Russia’s naked aggression, and to hold individuals, entities, and nations that facilitate Moscow’s war on Ukraine to account for the extreme suffering they have helped unleash on the Ukrainian people’.

They recognised that Russia’s war was affecting food security, energy, agriculture and fertiliser imports by countries globally and hampering regional economic recovery from the pandemic, and called on Russia to continue participating in the Black Sea grain initiative, which reduces the prices of essential grains, cereals and oil.