Austin to attend security forum, visit Asian nations during weeklong trip that underscores tension in Indo-Pacific region
Stars and Stripes November 16, 2022
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to Canada and two Asian countries beginning this week on a trip intended to strengthen security and defense strategies with allies, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Austin will leave the United States for Nova Scotia on Friday to attend the Halifax International Security Forum. There, officials said he will work with Canadian partners to build a “more resilient security architecture” with allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific and Europe.
Austin will deliver a keynote address at the forum.
During the trip, the defense secretary will also meet with Canadian defense minister Anita Anand to look for ways to bolster the U.S.-Canadian defense relationship, as well as the importance of “strategic defense investments.”
From there, Austin will travel to Jakarta in Indonesia to meet with government and military leaders.
“Secretary Austin’s visit will drive progress on key bilateral initiatives to support interoperability, capability development, and the professionalization and modernization of the Indonesian armed forces,” the Defense Department said in a statement.
After moving on to Seam Reap, Cambodia, Austin will participate in the 9th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus on Nov. 23.
The summit always involves the U.S. defense secretary, but this year will be Austin’s first time attending in person.
“This will be Secretary Austin's first in-person participation at the forum, which was conducted virtually last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and one which continues a long tradition of U.S. secretary of defense representation,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Tuesday.
The Pentagon said the visit to Cambodia aims to reinforce U.S. support for allies and ensure “greater stability, transparency and openness” in the Indo-Pacific region, which has seen heightened tensions in recent months and years — mostly from China and North Korea.
In May 2021, Austin traveled to the Indo-Pacific for his first overseas trip as defense secretary. At the time, he visited South Korea, Japan and India.
The Defense Department’s National Defense Strategy, released last month, identified China as the top U.S. competitor and noted an array of concerns about Beijing’s influence in the Indo-Pacific, particularly as it relates to Taiwan. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and considers the island to be a breakaway territory.
Some U.S. defense and intelligence officials have expressed concern that Russia’s war in Ukraine could persuade China to attempt an invasion of Taiwan. President Joe Biden said in September that the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily if such an incursion occurred.
Austin is expected to return to the United States late next week.