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US and Australia to discuss Pacific security

US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meet at the White House on Wednesday to discuss maritime and cyber security with respect to China.

In the Pacific, Australia and the US are key allies. Biden cancelled a trip to Sydney in May to discuss the government funding crisis, and the rescheduled meeting is now being held in Washington.

Australia is set to conclude several containment and competition agreements over China, despite attempts by both countries to maintain good relations with Beijing.

The deals include launching an undersea internet cable project, developing maritime mooring infrastructure to enable Pacific island nations to respond more quickly in the event of heightened tensions over Taiwan or the South China Sea.

Efforts at delicate Chinese restraint have been complicated by the Middle East crisis, which has diverted the United States’ attention away from the Indo-Pacific region.

A difficult situation in the US House of Representatives has also made it harder to fulfil Biden’s promises to support the AUKUS defence partnership between the United States, Britain and Australia. Under the deal, the US and the UK are to transfer nuclear submarine technology to Australia.

Funding and approval of the project has been temporarily hampered by a crisis in Congress, where dominant Republicans have once again failed to secure enough support for the party’s nominee to elect a new House Speaker.

On Friday, the Biden administration submitted a supplemental budget request to Congress to meet US obligations under AUKUS.

Australians are expressing personal frustration at the delays in moving forward with the US partnership.

We’re in close and deep consultations on Capitol Hill. We are confident that the various procedural steps and budget conditions necessary to move forward with pillar one of AUKUS will move through in a way that will support our larger endeavor.

Biden and Albanese will also seek to increase co-operation on cybersecurity and rare earth mineral mining in Australia to reduce dependence on China.

The US President will also announce that a cyber-attack on Australia could be considered an “armed” attack, which would trigger US collective defence commitments, as Australia has been a prime target of Chinese hackers.


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