By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, October 13, 2015 — Australia is a strong partner to the United States and is making valuable contributions to peace and security around the world, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in Boston today.
"Our alliance remains strong, its reach is global, and our nations remain a cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and in the world," Carter said after two days of discussions for the 2015 Australia-U.S. ministerial consultations.
Carter co-hosted the talks in Boston with Secretary of State John Kerry.
The United States and Australia face a full spectrum of complex threats, Carter said, citing as examples illegal trafficking, cybersecurity and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and violent extremism.
Australia has been with the United States since the start in Afghanistan, and has expanded its critical role in Iraq and Syria to "deliver ISIL a lasting defeat," Carter said, noting that Australian pilots have recently begun flying in Syria.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Australia, Kerry said.
"Good friends are vital all the time, but they are especially welcome in turbulent, challenging times," the top U.S. diplomat said. "That is why the United States' partnership with Australia is so important."
Carter and Kerry spoke in a news conference with the visiting Australian dignitaries, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defense Minister Marise Payne.
U.S., Russia to Discuss Air Safety Protocols
"Our counter-ISIL fight will proceed unchanged, as we continue to urge Russia to change its failing strategy," Carter said.
Russia must act professionally in the skies over Syria and abide by basic safety procedures, he said. U.S. and Russian officials will have another conversation on the topic tomorrow, he added. In a statement after the news conference, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said U.S. defense officials will hold a third secure video conference tomorrow with Russian Defense Ministry officials. "The focus of these discussions is on specific safety protocols for aircrews flying over Syria. Those discussions are progressing, but nothing has been finalized," Cook said.
"Even as we continue to disagree on Syria policy, we should be able to at least agree on making sure our airmen are as safe as possible," Carter said at the news conference.
The Syrian crisis requires a political solution, Kerry said. "A military component can help you get to that solution,” he added, “but Syria is literally being destroyed in the process."
Deepening the Alliance
Carter said he and Payne signed a bilateral statement on defense cooperation that includes increased intelligence sharing, improving multilateral and defense industry engagement, and fine-tuning interoperability.
The foundation of the U.S.-Australia relationship is built on values of freedom, democracy and rules-based order, Carter said. "Today, by deepening our alliance, we renew those values and stand resolved to defend them together," he added.
Since 2013, the U.S. rotational force near Darwin has expanded more than five-fold to 1,150 Marines, he said. "Australia and America both want to sustain and renew an Asia-Pacific regional security architecture where everyone rises and everyone prospers," Carter said. "That's the essence of the U.S. rebalance toward the region."
Tensions in South China Sea
The United States and Australia share an interest in upholding basic international norms such as freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce, Carter said.
"Together, our nations favor peaceful resolutions to disputes and oppose coercion and infringement on well-established international norms, especially in the face of rising tensions in the East and South China Sea," he said.
The United States will continue to "fly, sail and operate" wherever international law allows, explaining that, the "South China Sea is not and will not be an exception."
Anchoring Regional Stability
"The United States stands ready to continue our role as a pivotal security partner in this region, as we have done for over 70 years," Carter said. The strong U.S.-Australia defense partnership will continue to "anchor regional stability and strengthen our capacity in a variety of other areas, including disaster relief, and response to humanitarian crises," he added.