Biden says US, Australia are ‘working in lockstep’

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Biden says US, Australia are ‘working in lockstep’

President Biden defended the United States’ relationship with Australia on Tuesday following diplomatic drama originally stemming from the US’ botched withdrawal from Afghanistan — calling the Oceania nation America’s “closest and reliable” ally. 

Following his address at the UN General Assembly, Biden met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Intercontinental Barclay Hotel, where the two stressed their commitment to working together. 

“The US and Australia are working in lockstep on the priorities I laid out today in my speech to the United Nations — ending COVID, addressing climate crisis, [and] defending democracies should be the role of the world in the 21st century,” Biden said prior to their bilateral meeting. “I meant what I said, we are at an inflection point. Things are changing. Things are rapidly changing.” 

US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison meet after the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021
US President Joe Biden (right) and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) meet after the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Morrison also highlighted the strength and length of Australia’s partnership with the US, saying it has been a partnership “that is about world order that favors freedom.” 

“That’s why we’ve always been together,” he said. “And pursuing that freedom, of course, goes to our security. But more than that, it goes to love and property. It goes to global freedom, the freedom of our cities, the freedom of our way.”

“It goes to addressing the great global challenges of climate change, a new energy economy, and a very challenging future, but one our partnership I have no doubt will be able to address.” 

Biden and Morrison reaffirmed their commitment to working with each other and said that the US and Australia are "working in lockstep."
Biden and Morrison reaffirmed their commitment to working with each other and said that the US and Australia are “working in lockstep.”
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

The prime minister then thanked Biden for his leadership and focus on the Indo-Pacific region. 

During the meeting the two leaders discussed “the critical role European allies and partners, including NATO and the EU, play in the Indo-Pacific and ways to deepen that cooperation and joint work,” according to the White House.

Australia and the US’ partnership has come under fire in the past week after Biden announced a nuclear submarine deal between the US, UK, and Australia, dubbed AUKUS. 

The initiative, which was meant to send a warning signal to China and repair a slight to Australia over the Afghanistan withdrawal, caused outrage after it upended a French defense contract worth at least $66 billion to sell diesel-powered submarines to Australia.

During the meeting, President Biden called Australia America’s "closest and reliable" ally.
During the meeting, President Biden called Australia America’s “closest and reliable” ally.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Australian media had focused for months on perceived snubs by Biden, who didn’t consult Morrison ahead of his April decision to remove US troops from Afghanistan or call him amid the chaotic evacuation of Americans and US allies in August — despite Australia’s support for the US throughout the 20-year war.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported this month that the cold shoulder fueled “concerns the alliance between the two nations, as well as the relationship between Mr. Biden and Mr. Morrison, was strained.”

An Australian reporter pressed White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the status of the relationship during a Sept. 2 press briefing.

The meeting took place after Biden announced that Australia, the US and Great Britain entered into a nuclear submarine deal.
The meeting took place after Biden announced that Australia, the US and Great Britain entered into a nuclear submarine deal.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The reporter said: “A Taliban spokesman told an Australian news network that the 41 Australians who died in the war in Afghanistan died in vain. During this time, the Australian government found out about the withdrawal date change through media reporting. We weren’t included on the list from Secretary of State Antony Blinken of countries called on the final day — August 31. Does the Taliban have a point?”

Psaki said the US was “incredibly grateful” for Australia’s support in the war — and Biden called the Australian leader the same day, the White House said hours later.

In retaliation for the deal, French officials called it a “stab in the back,” canceled a gala in Washington D.C. and pulled their ambassadors from the US and Australia. 

On Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there was a “crisis of trust” with the US over the issue.

Biden is expected to have a call with French President Emmanuel Macron in the coming days regarding the diplomatic blunder. Morrison, on the other hand, has said he will not be meeting with Marcon this week.

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