The United States and Australia are claiming their alliance is stronger than ever today, as President Trump welcomes Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the White House. But their list of topics to discuss promotes a world in which China and Iran remain on the outside of the group.
Global security and trade are expected to be the hot topics, as Morrison begins his weeklong visit to the US with a state dinner here in Washington. He began the trip by saying Australia is a partner the US “can rely on” at a time of geopolitical unrest around the world.
A senior administration official confirmed that the leaders are expected to roll out a plan on Friday to secure the global supply of rare earth elements.
This comes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Sectary Mark Esper traveled to Australia last month to discuss strengthening their opposition to China’s activities in the Pacific.
The US has been vocal in its criticism of China for installing military equipment on artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea last year, and it warned about the dangers it could present to US allies in the region.
US officials also claimed that the Defense Department is in talks with Australia to host a facility that would process rare earth minerals, as part of an effort to reduce reliance on China for the specialized materials used in military equipment.
China has accounted for more than 90 percent of the world’s rare earth production since the 1990s, and it was responsible for more than 80 percent of the United States’ rare earth imports in recent years.
Rare earth elements are found in everything from televisions to computers and phones, and they are also essential for military equipment, such as jet engines and missile defense systems.
But the ongoing trade war has raised concerns that China could flex its power and cut off supplies to the US.
Trump and Morrison are also expected to discuss Australia’s pledge to ramp up surveillance along the Strait of Hormuz, amid increased tensions with Iran.
In response to claims from the US that it fears Iran will shut down the narrow waterway, which could have a devastating impact on the global oil supply, Morrison claimed the goal was to support freedom of navigation in the region.
While the US and Australia are celebrating 100 years of working together, their latest plans are raising concerns that they will only serve to continue to increase global tensions.