Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on March 13 leaves on his first international trip, aimed at “revitalizing” relationships with Indo-Pacific allies while top U.S. diplomats will meet with Chinese officials.
Austin will begin the trip by visiting U.S. Indo-Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii, at a time when INDOPACOM is pushing for a large increase in its deterrent fund. In Japan, he will join Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken for a meeting with their Japanese defense and foreign affairs counterparts.
Austin and Blinken will also meet with South Korea’s foreign minister and minister of defense, according to a Pentagon statement. Then, in India, Austin will meet with that country’s minister of defense and other senior leaders “to discuss deepening the U.S.-India major defense partnership” and discuss other ways to increase cooperation, according to the statement.
Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby told reporters March 10 the trip is “about working to revitalize our alliances and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.” The majority of the U.S.’s treaties are with countries in the region, and the Defense Department wants to “re-energize our commitment to those treaty alliances.”
“We know we need strong allies, and partners, and friends in that part of the world, and there’s a lot going on,” Kirby said. Meanwhile, on March 18, Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, the director of China’s Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, in Anchorage, Alaska, according to a State Department release.