By DoD News
By Joseph Clark
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will underscore the United States’ deep commitment to its allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific as he embarks on his ninth official visit to the region later this week, senior defense officials said Monday.
The trip includes stops in India, South Korea and Indonesia, where the secretary will meet with his regional counterparts and attend a series of engagements showcasing the growing cooperation among the U.S. and its allies.
“Every stop on this trip will highlight how the department continues to do more than ever alongside its allies and partners to deliver a shared regional vision of peace, stability and prosperity,” an official said while previewing the trip from the Pentagon.
“Next week, you will see just how diverse the region’s security architecture really is and the depth of our commitment across the board,” the official said.
While in India, Austin will meet with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh as the two countries progress on expanding their defense industrial cooperation and enhancing interoperability through the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem, or INDUS-X.
Over the summer, the U.S. and India released their road map for the strategic partnership, which identified key areas for cooperation between the countries’ defense industrial sectors. Those include cooperation on technology related to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, undersea domain awareness, air combat and support, munitions systems and mobility.
Austin and Singh will also discuss U.S. and Indian defense interoperability, including bilateral exercises focused on the Indian Ocean and multilateral engagements with other partners in the region.
The defense leaders will also participate in an expanded dialogue alongside Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Indian Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar in New Delhi.
Following their meeting, Austin and Blinken will meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While in South Korea, Austin will meet with South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik and other senior leaders as part of the 55th annual Security Consultative Meeting and the United Nations Command inaugural meeting of member states’ defense ministers.
“While meeting with our South Korean allies, the secretary will reinforce the ironclad commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea, including through the full arsenal of our capabilities, including extended deterrence,” a senior defense official said.
The visit will take place as U.S. and South Korea mark the 70th anniversary of their alliance this year. That alliance, the official said, remains an “important linchpin of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific.”
Following the security meeting, the U.S. and South Korea are expected to release a defense vision statement to further showcase the breadth of the alliance.
“This is critical given the recent activities by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [North Korea], and Secretary Austin will state that the Department of Defense is fully committed to the denuclearization of the DPRK,” the official said referring to North Korea by its formal name.
While in South Korea, Austin will honor U.S. and South Korean veterans in a ceremony marking Veterans Day.
In Indonesia, Austin will attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministerial Meeting-Plus, which includes representation from China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand in addition to the 10 ASEAN member states and the U.S. Timor Leste will also attend this year’s ADMM-Plus in observer capacity for the first time.
“In terms of the secretary’s engagement with ASEAN and our Southeast Asian partners, a big focus of our discussion in the plenary will be the support for ASEAN capacity building and, specifically, how we are helping with our people-to-people ties,” a defense official said.
Those areas include a new, emerging leaders defense program and a new gender adviser initiative that the U.S. will support alongside ASEAN partners.
During his engagements, Austin is also expected to address shared concerns around regional security.
Officials said Austin’s trip throughout the region will further underscore how the U.S. and its regional allies are meeting what is a pivotal moment in the Indo-Pacific.
“Whether we’re in New Delhi or Seoul [South Korea] or Jakarta [Indonesia] over the next week and a half, that’s a major through line you will see,” one official said. “We believe we are delivering results with our partners.”