Australia–US Ministerial Consultations set for today

China is certain to be high on the agenda. Pompeo’s speech last Thursday condemned Chinese human rights abuses and attacks

Australia Reuters

Photo: Reuters

China is certain to be high on the agenda. Pompeo’s speech last Thursday condemned Chinese human rights abuses and attacks on the “rules-based” international order. At the same time, the Australian government declared China’s claims over the South China Sea illegal and separately announced a major overhaul to its defence strategy.

This convergence of criticism suggests that the US and Australia will continue to seek a closer defence relationship. This could involve US technical help with expanding Australian munitions and rare earth mineral production. In addition, they may consider ways to respond to China’s rollback of Hong Kong’s autonomy and provide a safe haven for fleeing dissidents.

While today’s meeting will highlight the shared interests of Washington and Canberra, the limits of this relationship may dial back any progress made today. With its economy deeply intertwined with China’s, and its military and intelligence establishment heavily dependent on the US, Australia may not want to cast its lot entirely with one side or the other. Therefore, expect the consultation to be less hawkish than the tone of Pompeo’s recent policy speech.

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