Amid China’s expansionist and aggressive policies, Australian-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) will take place on Tuesday to discuss a range of issues including COVID-19 pandemic and the South China Sea.

According to South China Morning Post, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds arrived in Washington DC on Monday ahead of the talks, as both countries have hardened their stances towards Beijing’s increasingly aggressive policy in the Asia-Pacific.

During the meeting, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and their Australian counterparts are likely to discuss both the coronavirus pandemic and China’s activities in the South China Sea.

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Ahead of their departure, Payne and Reynolds issued a joint statement highlighting “coercive actions” in the South China Sea and the new national security law in Hong Kong undermining the “rights, freedoms and futures of millions of people,” South China Morning Post reported.

Though the leaders did not mention China in their statement, they reportedly discussed the rise in cyberattacks, disinformation about COVID-19 and moves by the “authoritarian governments” to stop open and secure internet.

Payne said that one-on-on meetings were “essential” to address “strategic challenges and advance our shared interests in a secure, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific”.

With AUSMIN, both Australia and the US wish to move closer to a unified and tougher stance on China as relations between them and Beijing continues to worsen.

Australia, which recently unveiled a new defence strategy backed by a 40 per cent rise in military spending, last week joined its treaty ally in formally declaring China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea to be illegal, according to South China Morning Post.

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