US defense chief to visit Israel, Germany, Belgium, UK

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will depart Washington, DC on Saturday to meet with government and military leaders in Israel, Germany, NATO headquarters in Belgium and the UK.

"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 deterrence and defense, burden sharing, and enduring trans-Atlantic security," said the Pentagon in a statement.

In Israel, Austin “will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benjamin Gantz to continue close consultations on shared priorities and reaffirm the enduring U.S. commitment to the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership and Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge," according to the statement.

In Germany, Austin will meet with his German counterpart Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Chancellery Foreign and Security Policy Adviser Dr. Jan Hecker.

The defense chief will reinforce the value the US places on its bilateral defense relationship with Germany.

"Other topics of discussion include combatting the malign influence of our shared strategic rivals and continued dialogue on U.S. force posture in Germany and elsewhere," it added.

Austin will also visit US European Command and US Africa Command headquarters in Germany to meet with American troops.

He will next visit Belgium to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg "on how the Alliance is tackling destabilizing behavior by Russia, a rising China, terrorism and global challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change."

In the final part of his tour, the defense chief will visit the UK and meet with Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace "to reaffirm the continuing importance of U.S.-U.K. defense cooperation to meet global security challenges," it said.

Source: AA

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