Magic trick at AUSMIN talks

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By Michael Shoebridge*

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds pulled off a magic trick at this week’s AUSMIN meeting. Australian decisions and directions—on military power, digital technology, misinformation and military supply chains—set the scene for the meeting and the agenda. And it was all about dealing with an assertive, coercive Chinese state while in the midst of a pandemic. But the public discussion of China came from the mouth of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

This allowed Australia to work with the US on the substance of how to handle Beijing while not being identified with the particular rhetoric and tone of the US administration’s messaging. By doing this, Payne and Reynolds role-modelled how other US partners—whether in Europe or the Indo-Pacific—want to work with the US.

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