Boris Johnson poses on the stairs of the Sydney Opera House, July 26, 2017.
Dan Himbrechts—AFP/Getty Images
July 27, 2017 2:41 AM EDT

The United Kingdom intends to play a bigger role in Asia after it leaves the European Union, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said during a trip to the Asia-Pacific region.

“One of the purposes of my trip is to get over the message that we are now going to be more committed to the Asia-Pacific region and more committed to Australia,” he said in an interview with The Australian newspaper published Thursday, the first of his three days in Sydney.

The British foreign secretary said that the closer relationship could involve U.K. troops being deployed to the region, if necessary.

“People want the involvement of a country that sticks up for a rules-based international system, that is prepared to deploy its military in the area, as we are,” he continued, according to Agence France-Presse.

Johnson, who campaigned for the U.K. to leave the E.U. in the run-up to last June’s referendum, presented an optimistic defense of Brexit, telling the newspaper that it gave London “the chance to think afresh about commercial­ opportunities and about [Asia].”

Read More: Hong Kong’s Former Governor Slams U.K. for ‘Kowtowing’ to China Over Eroding Rights

Johnson is in Sydney attending annual talks between British and Australian ministers of defense and foreign affairs, with a focus on security and trade. The U.K. is currently in the running for contracts to build new vessels for the Australian navy, competing with Spain and Italy.


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