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Old allies vow to 'modernise' partnership amid growing global threats

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Australia and the UK will “modernise” their partnerships amid threats to global peace, including Russian aggression, China’s economic coercion and Iran chasing a nuclear weapon.

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Strengthening economic security, infrastructure investment in the Pacific and enhanced cooperation on cyber and defence formed the bulk of the AUKMIN discussions between Australia and the UK’s defence and foreign affairs ministers in Sydney on Friday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the four discussed how the two countries can work more closely to counter authoritarian states seeking to undermine security and stability.

“Our values … don’t allow for assertiveness or aggression by authoritarian states who would deny others that sovereignty or their own strategic choices,” Senator Payne told reporters at Sydney’s Admiralty House on Friday.

UK Foreign Minister Elizabeth Truss said global tech standards needed to be shaped by the free world and not authoritarian regimes.

“We are modernising our partnership for a new age. The reality is that threats are rising across the world,” she told reporters.

“Technology has enabled incredible freedoms, but it is also being used to promote fear, and we can’t allow the technologies of the future to be exploited for malign ends.”

Truss says democracies need to respond to global threats amid global tensions not seen since the Cold War, including Britain expanding and deepening ties in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We need to work with partners like Australia, Israel, India, Japan, Indonesia and more,” she is due to tell the Lowy Institute in a keynote address following the AUKMIN meeting.

The UK foreign secretary said Australia was an “inspiration” and deepening cooperation would come through “pushing forward the AUKUS agreement to deliver a fleet of nuclear-powered subs for Australia”.

“By building closer ties with our friends and drawing other countries closer to the orbit of free-market democracies, will ultimately make us all safer and freer in the years to come.”

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said it could be expected British ships and troops will make more visits to Australia, but there was no proposal on the table for additional bases.

His British counterpart Ben Wallace said the US, UK and Australia were “joined at the hip” when it came to security, and in terms of expanding the cooperation “nothing is off the table”.

The head of the ANU National Security College says the strategic meetings in Australia amid the enormous tensions in the Europe are of obvious significance.

“It’s a signal that Australia and the United Kingdom are really reaching out beyond narrow boundaries of geography to build partnerships of like mindedness on security,” Rory Medcalf told the ABC.

“We’re more focused on the Indo-Pacific, but in the past 12 months, Britain has clearly rediscovered the Indo-Pacific and the impact of China in particular as quite central to its long-term security.”

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