Australia’s defense minister said on Sunday he aimed to deepen defense ties with France, Germany and Britain during visits to European partners this week, saying the war in Ukraine had heightened the importance of working with like-minded nations. The trip from August 29 to September 1 will be Richard Marles’ first since centre-left Labor won the general election in May. The government said the stopover in France would help “renew and rebuild” their bilateral relationship, describing France as one of Australia’s “oldest and most capable partners”.
Australia in June reached a 555 million euro ($553 million) settlement with French shipyard Naval Group over its cancellation of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal last year.Canberra had hoped the deal would help repair a rift after the previous government abandoned the deal in favor of building nuclear-powered submarines with the United States and Britain under a new alliance called AUKUS. This week, Marles will also take part in a round table with representatives of the German defense industry while in Britain visiting shipyards, the government said.”Our relationship with the UK is historic and mutually beneficial and is reflected in our ongoing commitment to AUKUS,” said Marles.
“My visit to Europe comes at a time when the war in Ukraine has shown the importance of growing cooperation with like-minded partners, both in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific.”In June, Marles visited Japan to promote defense cooperation to counterbalance China’s growing military influence in Asia. Also on Sunday, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she would travel to nearby Papua New Guinea (PNG) and East Timor this week. Australia has moved to strengthen ties in the Pacific amid growing Chinese influence, including a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands in April.
Wong said she will meet PNG counterpart Justin Tkatchenko, recently re-elected Prime Minister James Marape and members of PNG’s new cabinet. From PNG, Wong will travel to East Timor on Wednesday to meet with officials including President José Ramos-Horta, Prime Minister Tauro Matan Ruak and Foreign Minister Adaljiza Magno. She said she planned to discuss issues such as Australia’s support for East Timor’s economic development and its bid to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the World Trade Organisation “Australia is committed to working with Papua New Guinea and East Timor for a stable, resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Wong said.