British Foreign Secretary Lizz Truss has said that the UK and Australia would continue to show “robust vigilance” in defending freedom and democracy in the face of rising threats from “malign aggressors.”
Truss is in Australia along with British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for ministerial-level talks with their counterparts, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton.
It will be the first two-on-two “AUKMIN” talks hosted in Australia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic
The two nations are aiming to forge stronger economic, security, and technological ties in a bid to correct the reliance on China and Russia for trade and resources, which Truss described as a strategic vulnerability.
“The AUKUS partnership between the UK, Australia, and the United States is a clear demonstration of how we will defend our values, protect trade routes, and increase stability across the Indo-Pacific,” Truss said in a statement. “In Australia, I will be strengthening our economic, diplomatic and security ties—making our country safer and more competitive—in order to win the battle for ideas as part of our network of liberty.”
Truss told NewsCorp’s The Australian ahead of the meetings that Australia was an “absolutely crucial” part of the AUKUS alliance and that the country has “led the way” in promoting freedom and democracy.
The AUKMIN talks will focus on strategic challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and explore how the allies can work together to maintain the current “rules-based” world order amid the Chinese regime’s increasing belligerence.
“Australia and the UK share an interest in maintaining the international rules-based order underpinning stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and globally,” Payne said in a statement.
“The international environment is becoming more complex and challenging. AUKMIN 2022 will consider ways to strengthen our partnership in order to meet new and emerging threats and seize the many opportunities that this era presents.”
Truss noted that the “increased activity of economic coercion by China” has been seen in Lithuania and Australia.
“We are seeing a world in which countries are using economic pressure, they are using security pressure, and they are using technology to try to undermine freedom and democracy,” she said.
Truss also warned against economic dependence on China and noted that developing countries have been lured into debt-trap investment programs like the Belt and Road Initiative.
The UK delegation also highlighted Russia’s growing aggression toward Ukraine, with Truss noting the increasing number of Russian tanks along the border while accusing the government of conducting “destabilising cyber attacks.”
“In this type of job, you can become reactive to events,” she said. “But you’ve got to ask, why are we in this situation with Russia? It is because there hasn’t been enough done for 20 years so [Russian President] Vladimir Putin feels emboldened. You have to do the proactive stuff as well. You have to make time for it—that’s my view.”
Australia and Britain shared one of “the oldest and strongest defence and security alliances,” according to Wallace.
“Operating and exercising side by side, we continue to work together to promote stability, and tackle our shared threats with our like-minded ally head on,” he said.
Dutton said he looked forward to discussing these issues with his counterparts.