Latest round of Southwest Pacific and Timor-Leste engagements begin

The Australian Defence Force continues to support the Australian Government’s Pacific Step-Up initiative through the latest series of engagements across the Southwest Pacific and Timor-Leste.

Joint Task Force 637 and Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Sirius will arrive in Fiji in early July for a five day port-call, signalling the start of what will be a comprehensive six month program of official activities throughout the region.

Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Samoa, and the Micronesia region will join Fiji as focal points for cultural exchanges and training activities.

Commander of the Joint Task Group 637, Major General Jake Ellwood said the new series of engagements continued to reflect Australia’s enduring commitment to the Pacific community in developing stronger people-to-people links.

“Defence activities are an important part of the Australian Government’s program of enhanced engagement throughout the region, with the ongoing security and prosperity of our partners being our highest priority,” Major General Ellwood said.

“We are interested in expanding our understanding of the needs of our neighbours and cementing our relationships with their national security forces.”

Key events in the program include a Guardian-class Patrol Boat commissioning in Tonga, hydrographic survey activities, air transport support to Pacific Islands Forum delegates, and mutual training in Papua New Guinea.

Defence will also continue to help remove the danger of unexploded remnants of war in Solomon Islands (Operation RENDER SAFE), conduct a joint exercise in Vanuatu (Exercise VANUATU ALLIANCE), and support the efforts to curb illegal fishing across Micronesia.

Major General Ellwood said the varied nature of the activities reflected the diverse geographic locations, histories, cultures and experiences of the participating nations.

“Australia’s enduring connection to Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste, as well as our proximity to this region, supports a like-minded approach to common goals such as regional security and the protection of sovereignty,” Major General Ellwood said.

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