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US talks never been more important: govt

Australia’s foreign and defence ministers say upcoming talks with their US counterparts are more important that ever, with China’s actions undermining security and freedoms in the region.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds are flying to Washington DC on Sunday for the annual AUSMIN talks with their Trump administration counterparts.

China is expected to dominate discussions in next week’s face-to-face talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defence Secretary Mark Esper.

“Never has it been more important that we, as allies, sit down together and find every possible way to advance our shared interests,” Senator Payne and Senator Reynolds write in The Weekend Australian on Saturday.

“Sweeping and vague ‘national security’ legislation imposed on Hong Kong has undermined the rights, freedoms and futures of millions of people.

“Coercive actions in the South China Sea, such as the escalation of disputes and militarisation of disputed features, continue to create tension that destabilise the region.

“Cyber attacks are on the rise, while authoritarian governments imperil hopes for an open, interoperable, reliable and secure internet.”

The ministers foreshadowed Australia-US agreements to target infectious disease and disinformation, and to support regional economic recovery, increase military co-operation and enhance supply chains.

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