UK Mulls Basing Military Assets in Australia Amid 'Malign Actors' Rise in Indo-Pacific
Australia has boosted its defences by forming alliances with the US, UK, Japan, and India via new agreements such as AUKUS and reciprocal access pacts. Despite objections from China, Prime Minister Morrison has taken several defence-related measures to weather regional security concerns, which Canberra considers have "grown significantly".
A day after inking a cyber-security agreement, the UK and Australia vowed to intensify their defence and security cooperation further to counter "malign actors" that "challenge the rules-based international order and pose clear risks to global security and prosperity".
Australian ministers Marise Payne and Peter Dutton welcomed UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to the annual AUKMIN talks on Friday.
Noting how the risk of tensions within the Indo-Pacific region had risen, ministers also agreed to undertake a series of tabletop exercises and improve each other's capacity to respond to critical issues in the Indo-Pacific
Dutton has said there are no plans to introduce temporary military basing arrangements. However, at the same time, Wallace underlined that "nothing is off the table" saying "let's take the steps as they come."
"In terms of basing, there's no proposal on the table to provide that additional basing ... It could be something that we discuss at an appropriate time if it's suitable to both parties," Dutton said.
Both the ministers said that there would be a greater regularity in military visits and training, with people embedded in both services. "Certainly a greater cooperation in exercises and the visits by those various platforms, not just limited to submarines," Dutton emphasised.
Australia's Defence Minister expects more visits from allies, including the US, to continue as more countries "understand what is happening in terms of coercion and bullying within the Indo-Pacific
Australia had signed a trilateral pact named AUKUS last September
to receive submarine technologies from the US and the UK. The three countries have started negotiations to implement the arrangement.
"We've got to lay the foundations for understanding the design of all this, but in the meantime, Britain will certainly make sure that the submarines - when we have availability, or we wish to deploy in conjunction with Australia - we will do that," the UK Defence Secretary said about AUKUS.
Ministers stressed that the targeted use of sanctions is a critical tool in responding to malign activity, including with respect to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, serious human rights abuses, and malicious cyber activity.
They named countries such as Russia, China, and Iran which the UK and Australia believe launch regular cyberattacks, allegations repeatedly denied by Moscow, Tehran, and Beijing.
Australia and the UK agreed to enhance cybersecurity by a further exchanges of specialist cyber personnel and increasing bilateral participation in one another's respective cyber exercises.
On 6 January, Australia had signed a landmark defence pact named Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) with Japan to facilitate faster deployment of Japanese Self-Defence Forces and Australian Defence Force personnel.