By Fang Xiaozhi
The foreign ministers and defense ministers of the US and Australia held the annual meeting in Washington, discussing how to build and deepen the so-called "unbreakable "relationship in the Indo-Pacific region and the world on July 28. They also unreasonably accused China of relevant regional security issues.
The Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) 2020 is Australia's first ministerial overseas trip since Australia closed its border for three months amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Flying to the US, the epicenter of the global pandemic, shows how much the Australian side values this meeting.
For Australia, due to its limited strength, its national security, army building, national defense research and technological development all rely on the help from the US to a large extent. For example, currently nearly half of Australia's weapons and equipment are imported from the US. The two countries have signed a purchase contract for 72 F-35 stealth fighters and decided to upgrade and transform the existing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters to further improve its air control, land and sea combat capabilities.
For the US, it has taken Australia's special geographical location and regional influence as an important support for realizing its regional and even global strategies. Especially in recent years, as the US Indo-Pacific strategy continues to deepen and the regional security situation continues to become more complex, Australia's strategic value continues to rise, and its position and weight in the US Indo-Pacific strategy are also increasing. Australia plays a key role in the US implementing its "Indo-Pacific" strategy.
Under such circumstances, Australia has fully realized its unique value. Based on its judgment on the focus of national security in the future, Australia has shown a high degree of strategic coordination with the deepening of the US Indo-Pacific strategy. Australia has followed the US closely and has continuously expanded the scope of military activities in the Indo-Pacific region. Australia has established close cooperation mechanisms with the US in terms of diplomatic consultations, strategic planning, defense cooperation, joint military exercises, intelligence sharing, and technology transfer.
According to the current Force Posture Agreement signed by the two countries, the US can station troops at the port of Darwin in northern Australia, which will greatly benefit the two parties' control over key passages such as the Strait of Malacca, Makassar Strait, Sunda Strait and Lombok Strait. In the recently released 2020 Defence Strategic Update, Australia also particularly emphasized the Indo-Pacific region as the key direction of future defense planning, and advocated playing the role of a pivot country in the Indo-Pacific region.
During AUSMIN 2020, the two countries also plan to set up a new bilateral working group to coordinate hardware and personnel deployment issues in the Indo-Pacific joint military operations. In addition, the two countries have also decided to strengthen cooperation in new defense fields such as ballistic missiles, hypersonic defense technology, electronic warfare, and space warfare, and strengthen the strength and depth of their joint military training.
From the perspective of future development, the US and Australia will continue to expand the scope and areas of cooperation with a trend of increasing regionalization and focalization in order to jointly cope with the various security challenges facing the two countries. This will objectively create a more confrontational geostrategic structure in the Indo-Pacific region, greatly increase the factors of regional security instability, and exert a significant impact on the regional security environment and strategic structure.
(The author Fang Xiaozhi is a researcher at the Institute of Strategic Studies and International Security under Fudan Institute of Belt and Road & Global Governance.)