Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds have arrived in the US for crucial talks with top Trump administration officials.
Ms Payne and Ms Reynolds wore masks as they exited an Australian government plane outside Washington DC on Monday.
“This visit is a testament to the importance of our enduring Alliance,” Ms Reynolds tweeted.
The annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations were deemed so important this year the Australian delegation chose to attend in person despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The White House was rocked on Monday when US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien tested positive for COVID-19.
Mr O’Brien is the closest official to Mr Trump to test positive so far.
Around 70,000 people in the US are testing positive and 1100-plus are dying from the virus each day.
Ms Payne, Ms Reynolds and the seven other members of the downsized delegation will have to quarantine for 14 days when they return to Australia.
China and its aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific, including disinformation campaigns, militarised island building and territorial claims in the South China Sea and security crackdowns in Hong Kong, are expected to be high on the agenda when the ministers meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Ms Payne will have dinner with Mr Pompeo at the State Department on Monday evening (Tuesday AEST) and the AUSMIN talks will be held on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST).
“Discussions at AUSMIN 2020 will centre on our shared efforts towards a stable, resilient, open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific, particularly in the context of the impact of COVID-19,” Ms Payne and Ms Reynolds said in a joint statement.
“We will focus on how both our nations can best work together to respond to immense health, economic and security challenges.”