Defence ministers from across the Pacific have come together virtually for a special South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM). The video teleconference was held to discuss COVID-19, regional security impacts, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Pacific region. Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said she was pleased to connect with her regional counterparts at this critical time.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds. (PHOTO: Government File Photo)

“The virtual meeting provided an opportunity to discuss regional responses to COVID-19 and to reflect on the impacts the pandemic is having on security in the region,” Reynolds said. “We have been closely engaged with Pacific partners throughout the COVID-19 response and remain committed to continuing this engagement during the recovery.

“Maintaining interoperability and cooperation between regional defence forces supports stability in the region and helps to build strong and enduring partnerships. Together we are stronger at defending and addressing our mutual security challenges, and will always support each other in times of crisis. This was clearly demonstrated when our neighbours came to our assistance during the Australian bushfires earlier this year, and we were proud to assist the region following the devastation of Tropical Cyclones Harold and Tino.”

Assistant Defence Minister Alex Hawke. (PHOTO: Government)

Assistant Defence Minister Alex Hawke said it’s important that regional defence ministers are able to share lessons learned during the pandemic. “Throughout the Pacific our respective defence forces have learned many lessons during the pandemic and it’s critical that we are able to share those lessons with one another,” Hawke said. “It’s just as important that our defence forces continue to collaborate as we work to protect our communities from COVID-19.”

The virtual meeting was attended by ministers from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, New Zealand, and Chile with the French defence minister providing a video message of support. The SPDMM is a key forum for Pacific defence ministers to discuss shared security challenges and enhance coordination on regional defence issues. Ministers agreed to hold a face-to-face SPDMM as soon as travel restrictions enabled.

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