The US and Australia will remain united and will not stop their fight against terrorism, Washington’s Secretary of Defence James Mattis said on Monday here. “We are united in our resolve even against an enemy that thinks, by hurting us, they can scare us. We don’t scare,” Mattis said at the start of the annual Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN). US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is also participating in the forum, stressed the importance of the historic alliance between the US and Australia to defend the fundamental principles of democracy and peace, Efe news reported. Tillerson emphasised the commitment of both countries to “this common fight we share against the most heinous of actions we’ve seen most recently in London yet again,” referring to Saturday’s terror attack in London that killed seven people and injured 48 others.
Tillerson and Mattis and their Australian counterparts, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and Defence Minister Marise Payne, met to discuss terrorism, as well as other issues of mutual strategic interest, including North Korea’s nuclear program. At the 15th Asia Security Summit in Singapore, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, held from Friday to Sunday, Mattis and Payne had urged China to become more involved and to use its influence over North Korea to end its missile program. The North Korean regime warned Australia in April that it could be targeted by a nuclear attack if it continued to “blindly” follow the US, which has responded by threatening Pyongyang with a pre-emptive strike.
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The meeting was also expected to address the South China Sea territorial dispute and Beijing’s construction of military facilities on man-made islands in the resource-rich waters. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also partially claim the territory. The AUSMIN meeting – a mechanism established 30 years ago to address foreign policy, defence and strategic issues – is held annually, although in 2016 it was not convened due to the general elections in the US and Australia.