Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton called for alliances to protect the nations and people of the Indo-Pacific region during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday.
Dutton said the situation in the Indo-Pacific is "deteriorating" and alliances are the only way to defend international rules-based order, according to a statement from the U.S. Defense Department.
Dutton visited the Pentagon a day before the Australian-U.S. Ministerial Consultations with the State Department.
Austin and Dutton discussed the state of the alliance between the two countries, which have been close since World War I and remain treaty allies under the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty signed in 1951.
"Australia, one of our oldest allies, invoked the ANZUS Treaty for the first time, and the only time, after 9/11, sending your forces two decades ago to fight shoulder to shoulder alongside the United States," Austin said.
Dutton said the terrorist attacks are "a reminder of the need for us to continue our relationship to stare down that evil and to deal with whatever the next century might hold."
Austin said the alliance between the United States and Australia "has never been greater than it is today. We see the same challenges, we share the same sense of urgency, and we're cooperating closely on force posture, strategic capabilities, regional engagement and military operations."
Strategic challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region were the focus of the U.S.-Australia Defense Policy & Strategy Talks on Aug. 10, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement.
The virtual meeting was led by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Dr. Ely Ratner and his Australian counterparts, First Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Policy Hugh Jeffrey and acting First Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategic Policy Zoe Cameron.
The United States and Australia have a close relationship for defense materials development. In November, the countries agreed to speed development and testing of hypersonic weapons in response to a regional arms race involving China and Russia.
The countries have been involved in numerous exercises in the contested South China Sea to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Mostly recently, a U.S. warship transited the Taiwan Straight for the eighth time this year on Aug. 27.
In June, a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer joined an Australian navy frigate for exercises in the South China Sea that included maneuvering drills and a replenishment at sea.
In July, about 17,000 personnel participated in the two-week multinational naval exercise Talisman Sabre 2021 off the Australian Coast.
Red Flag-Alaska 21-2, a multinational drill involving the U.S. Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force, also concluded in August.
The routine drill is held three or four times a year and aims to strengthen interoperability in the Indo-Pacific region through combat simulations.