New Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will head out on his first overseas trip Saturday to visit U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on Oahu, U.S. troops and senior government leaders in Japan and South Korea, and senior government leaders in India, the Pentagon said today.
The trip will “highlight his vision for the Indo-Pacific region as a priority theater,” the Defense Department said.
“Secretary Austin will meet with his counterparts and other senior officials to discuss the importance of international defense relationships, and reinforce the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said.
The retired four-star general, 67, was granted a waiver by Congress because he retired sooner than a seven-year wait period for former military members to hold the civilian job.
Austin, who retired from the Army in 2016, was sworn in as the 28th secretary of defense in January. He is the first African American to lead the Pentagon.
In Japan, Austin will join U.S. Department of State Secretary Antony Blinken for U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (“2+2”) talks “to emphasize that the U.S.-Japan Alliance has never been more resolute and resilient,” the Pentagon said.
The relationship was referred to as the “cornerstone of peace and security in a free and open Indo-Pacific in the face of long-term competition with China.”
In South Korea, Austin and Blinken will attend a U.S.-Republic of Korea Foreign and Defense Ministerial (“2+2”) event.
The Pentagon said the U.S. – ROK alliance “remains a linchpin of peace, security, and prosperity in Northeast Asia.
In India, Secretary Austin will meet with his counterpart, Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh, and other senior national security leaders to discuss deepening a U.S.-India defense partnership and “advancing cooperation between our countries for a free, prosperous and open Indo-Pacific and Western Indian Ocean region.”