Lloyd Austin
Lloyd AustinREUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday discussed with his French counterpart, Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastian Lecornu, the continued attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea by Yemen's Houthis.

"Both leaders agree that the Red Sea is vital for global commerce, noting that the scale and increasing frequency of these attacks constitute a significant international problem that must be addressed," Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement summarizing the conversation.

"The United States and France are both making significant contributions to stability in the region, and seek further collaboration on bilateral and multilateral solutions. Secretary Austin thanked France for its support to the 44-nation joint statement condemning the Houthis' illegal attacks on international shipping," Ryder added.

France is one of the countries that joined a newly established force to protect ships that have come under attack in the Red Sea by drones and ballistic missiles from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. Austin officially announced the creation of the international force earlier this week.

In addition to the US and France, the new mission consists of the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have upped their attacks on vessels in the Red Sea since the start of the Israel-Hamas was on October 7.

Recently, the Houthi rebels threatened to attack any vessels heading to Israeli ports unless food and medicine were allowed into the Gaza Strip.

Two days later, the Houthis launched a land-based cruise missile towards a Norwegian commercial tanker vessel.

A senior Houthi official then warned cargo ships in the Red Sea to avoid traveling toward “occupied Palestinian territories”.

Several shipping companies have announced in recent days that they would temporarily halt operations in the Red Sea after their vessels came under attack from the Houthis.