Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps today underscored the U.S. and United Kingdom’s shared commitment to upholding global peace and security as the two leaders met to discuss a range of security issues.
Austin said the U.S.-U.K alliance remains central as both countries work together to address the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza; attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea; and Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.
Amid the range of security challenges, Austin said the “U.S.-U.K. special relationship is as strong as ever.”
The leaders met at the Pentagon on the heels of precision strikes against military targets in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen that were carried by the U.S. and U.K. with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands.
The two successful strikes launched earlier this month were aimed at diminishing the rebel group’s ability to launch further attacks against vessels operating in international waters.
“The United Kingdom’s partnership is pivotal to addressing these reckless and illegal attacks against military vessels and commercial shipping in the Red Sea,” Austin said as he met with Shapps. “We can see Iran’s hand here, as well — providing the Houthis with advanced conventional weapons, intelligence and expertise. The U.S. and U.K. are deeply committed to the rules-based international order and defending the freedom of navigation.”
Austin also thanked Shapps for his leadership as the two countries work shoulder to shoulder to confront the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.
“We share the view that Israel must be able to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism in accordance with international law,” Austin said. “We also believe that Israel has a duty to avoid harming Palestinian civilians and that the people of Gaza urgently need far more humanitarian assistance.”
He added that the U.S. and U.K. continue to “stand foursquare together with Ukraine” as Russia’s invasion enters its third year.
“I look forward to discussing ways that we can continue to strengthen Ukraine’s capability to defend its sovereign territory,” Austin said.
In remarks ahead of their meeting, the two leaders also previewed discussions about NATO‘s central role in maintaining transatlantic security, as members of the alliance prepare for next month’s meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. They’ll meet again at a summit marking the 75th anniversary of the alliance in Washington later this year.
Also ahead of today’s talks, both leaders condemned attacks in Jordan over the weekend that resulted in the deaths of three U.S. service members and wounded dozens more.
Austin reiterated his “anger and grief” on behalf of the whole of the department over the deaths of the three U.S. soldiers and those wounded in the attack.
“The president and I will not tolerate attacks on U.S. forces from Iran-backed terrorist groups or anyone else,” he said. “As President [Joe] Biden has said, we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing.”