Australia/USA — Admiral Willard’s visit to Australia, WikiLeaks, US Global Force Posture Review

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, Can I offi­cial­ly wel­come to Perth and to West­ern Aus­tralia and Aus­tralia Admi­ral Bob Willard, Com­man­der of the US Pacif­ic Com­mand.
It’s Admi­ral Willard’s first vis­it to Aus­tralia as Com­man­der of Pacif­ic Com­mand but it’s not his first vis­it to Aus­tralia. We wel­come him back and we’re very pleased to receive his vis­it on this occa­sion.

He’s been to Perth before in the 1980s and has remarked to me about the sub­stan­tial changes that have occurred to Perth since the ear­ly 1980s.

In the course of his vis­it to West­ern Aus­tralia today we start­ed the day at Camp­bell Bar­racks in Swan­bourne with the SAS Reg­i­ment, and we’ve just come from Fleet Base West or HMAS Stir­ling, as it’s known to West­ern Australians.

In addi­tion to speak­ing with the Reg­i­ment at Camp­bell Bar­racks and hav­ing a tour of the HMAS Perth Anzac Frigate at HMAS Stir­ling, we’ve had the chance for a bilat­er­al con­ver­sa­tion about some of the issues that Aus­tralia and the Unit­ed States share.

First­ly, can I say the Alliance between Aus­tralia and the Unit­ed States remains, of course, the bedrock of our strate­gic secu­ri­ty and defence arrange­ments. And in that con­text we wel­come Admi­ral Willard here so soon after the recent AUSMIN Meet­ing in Melbourne.

We dis­cussed a range of issues. First­ly, the Unit­ed States Glob­al Force Pos­ture Review, which Sec­re­tary Gates and I dis­cussed in Mel­bourne. The Unit­ed States is at the begin­ning of that exer­cise but, as part of the AUSMIN deci­sions, Sec­re­tary Gates and I agreed that Aus­tralia and the Unit­ed States would have a joint work­ing group to look at the impli­ca­tions for the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia so far as the Force Pos­ture Review is con­cerned. And next week in Can­ber­ra, that work­ing group will meet for the first time. So we’ve had the chance to dis­cuss those issues.

Sec­ond­ly, I was very pleased that Admi­ral Willard gave me his brief­ing on recent events in the Repub­lic of Kore­an. Aus­tralia, of course, stands shoul­der to shoul­der with the Repub­lic of Korea on these very dif­fi­cult issues. And we again com­pli­ment the Repub­lic of Korea for the restrained way in which it has respond­ed to enor­mous provo­ca­tion from North Korea.

As a con­se­quence of our vis­it to Camp­bell Bar­racks we of course also spoke about Afghanistan and the joint and shared work we do in Uruz­gan Province under the Com­bined Team Uruz­gan in Afghanistan.

And, final­ly, as a result of the vis­it to HMAS Stir­ling, we had a con­ver­sa­tion about the White Paper, Australia’s 2009 Defence White Paper, includ­ing and in par­tic­u­lar our pro­pos­al for 12 new sub­marines, our future sub­ma­rine pro­gram, which, of course, is a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­i­ty that we’ll see a pres­ence in HMAS Stir­ling itself.

So Admi­ral, we’re very pleased to see you here. I’ll cross to the Admi­ral for some open­ing remarks. I’m then very hap­py to respond to your ques­tions about the Admiral’s vis­it. And then if you have ques­tions relat­ing to oth­er mat­ters I’m hap­py to take those as well. 

Can I just draw your atten­tion, the Admi­ral has got a plane to catch and we’re look­ing at sort of get­ting away from here not too long after 1.15pm

BOB WILLARD: Thank you Min­is­ter. Thank you very much for those kind com­ments and the wel­come to West­ern Aus­tralia. As the Min­is­ter men­tioned, the last time I was here, I think, was 1989 and I was still a young pilot on an air­craft car­ri­er, and paid a vis­it to Perth. It’s won­der­ful to be back. Your city looks won­der­ful and fly­ing over the state West­ern Aus­tralia itself looks terrific.

I’d like to offer my thanks to CDF Angus Hous­ton and to Min­is­ter Smith for hav­ing host­ed me through the sev­er­al days that I’ve been back to Aus­tralia. We’ve had ter­rif­ic dis­cus­sions, bilat­er­al dis­cus­sions, and I’ve had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it in Can­ber­ra, Dar­win and now Perth.

So this was a rare expe­ri­ence for both my wife and I, and won­der­ful­ly host­ed by our Aus­tralian hosts. Thank you so much.

STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks very much.

QUESTION: Min­is­ter, you men­tioned the White Paper. We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly been led to believe that the Chi­nese were uncon­cerned about the White Paper and par­tic­u­lar­ly Angus Hous­ton had made some com­ments in May say­ing that they’d shown no con­cern. The lat­est Wik­iLeaks cables indi­cate that they in fact were con­cerned; there was neg­a­tive reaction.

STEPHEN SMITH: Let me make a num­ber of remarks in response to that. First­ly, I’m not propos­ing now or in the future to be drawn on any indi­vid­ual diplo­mat­ic cable or news­pa­per report­ing on that. The Gov­ern­ment has made its view clear about what it regards very strong­ly as the inap­pro­pri­ate release of such mate­r­i­al. And I’ve made that point myself. So far as the White Paper is con­cerned, not in response to any report­ing on any par­tic­u­lar cable, but as a gen­er­al propo­si­tion let me restate the long­stand­ing and well-known posi­tion of the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment. First­ly, in the run-up to the pub­li­ca­tion of the Defence White Paper in 2009, the Gov­ern­ment took the oppor­tu­ni­ty of alert­ing a num­ber of coun­tries to the pro­posed pub­li­ca­tion and briefed accord­ing­ly. That’s on the pub­lic record. One of those coun­tries was Chi­na, and I have read the tran­script from the brief­ing that Chief of the Defence Force Angus Hous­ton gave in May of 2009. I’ve read it very care­ful­ly and peo­ple should do that. And I’ve dis­cussed it with the CDF today and he advis­es me there’s no rea­son why he would change any of the com­ments he made on that occa­sion, nor do I see any reason.

I have made it clear, as Min­is­ter for Defence and pre­vi­ous­ly as For­eign Min­is­ter, that when it comes to Australia’s rela­tion­ship with Chi­na, there are some very impor­tant fun­da­men­tals. First­ly, we have a pos­i­tive con­struc­tive rela­tion­ship with Chi­na, both gen­er­al­ly and so far as Defence coop­er­a­tion is con­cerned. That’s the first point.

Sec­ond­ly, Aus­tralia has made it clear to Chi­na, both pub­licly and pri­vate­ly, that as Chi­na emerges as a ris­ing pow­er, as a super pow­er, we expect that as a result of this eco­nom­ic expan­sion there will also be a mil­i­tary expan­sion. But we expect Chi­na to be trans­par­ent about the strate­gic intent behind its mil­i­tary expansion.

Third­ly, the White Paper does not sin­gle out Chi­na, as some com­men­ta­tors either in Chi­na or in Aus­tralia would have you believe. It is a strate­gic view of our region and beyond. So I’ve seen a range of com­ments today and they don’t in any way detract from the posi­tion made clear by the Gov­ern­ment or the posi­tion that the Chief of the Defence Force indi­cat­ed to jour­nal­ists in a media brief­ing in May 2009.

QUESTION: So you believe that Chi­na was hap­py with that Defence Paper?

STEPHEN SMITH: As I’ve said on any num­ber of occa­sions, both as Min­is­ter for Defence in this Par­lia­ment and pre­vi­ous­ly, I myself have had con­ver­sa­tions with Chi­nese coun­ter­parts, and those con­ver­sa­tions have been frank. They’ve been frank about Australia’s view that the White Paper is not aimed at Chi­na or any indi­vid­ual nation. Those con­ver­sa­tions have also been frank about the fact that, as China’s mil­i­tary expan­sion occurs, we expect Chi­na to be trans­par­ent about the strate­gic intent behind that mil­i­tary expansion.

We remain con­fi­dent that Chi­na will emerge, as Bob Zoel­lick would say, as a respon­si­ble inter­na­tion­al stake­hold­er or, as the Chi­nese would say, into a har­mo­nious environment. 

QUESTION: Min­is­ter, what about the claims that there’s a wide­spread view that Afghanistan is a hope­less case inside Gov­ern­ment. How wide­spread is that view? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, again, I’m not propos­ing to be drawn on any par­tic­u­lar cable or alleged cable, or com­men­tary aris­ing from that. But let me out­line to you the very clear and con­sis­tent posi­tion of the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment. First­ly, from the moment we came to office in Decem­ber 2007, we made it clear from the out­set that we regard­ed our effort in Afghanistan as, first­ly, not just being in the inter­na­tion­al community’s inter­ests, but in Australia’s nation­al inter­est. But we also made it clear we regard­ed that as being dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous. There has been no under­state­ment so far as the Gov­ern­ment is con­cerned of the dif­fi­cul­ties or the dan­gers or the chal­lenges in Afghanistan. That’s the first point. 

Sec­ond­ly, we have recent­ly seen a ful­ly-fledged Par­lia­men­tary debate on Afghanistan. In the course of that debate I made it clear, both in the Par­lia­ment and pub­licly in my remarks, that one of the chal­lenges we faced in Afghanistan was hav­ing been there for nine and a half years, hav­ing seen the dis­trac­tion of Iraq, one of the fail­ings of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty was that we did not bring to the table a coher­ent mil­i­tary or polit­i­cal strat­e­gy about Afghanistan until very recently. 

Very many of the com­ments that I’ve seen are dat­ed at a time pri­or to the Riedel Review, pri­or to Gen­er­al McChrystal’s Review, pri­or to the Oba­ma Review, and the agree­ment by the Unit­ed States and the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty reflect­ed through the Kab­ul Con­fer­ence that we saw in July of this year, reflect­ed through the Lon­don Con­fer­ence at the begin­ning of this year, and also most recent­ly reflect­ed by the Lis­bon Con­fer­ence. Final­ly we have a coher­ent mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal strat­e­gy with, as a result of the surge, fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s deci­sions and NATO’s deci­sions, with the resources to match that.

Yes, Afghanistan has been and con­tin­ues to be dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous. We do believe that in the last six months or so we have made progress. But as I have said pre­vi­ous­ly, the test of that, the next real­ly effec­tive test of that will be when the fight­ing sea­son resumes after the win­ter. And so in the first half of next year we will see whether those advances have been consolidated. 

But as the Prime Min­is­ter has made clear, as I have made clear, as the Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs has made clear, Afghanistan will con­tin­ue to be dif­fi­cult. Afghanistan will con­tin­ue to be dan­ger­ous. We expect there will be fur­ther casu­al­ties, indeed the prospect of fur­ther fatal­i­ties in Afghanistan. But we are there because we believe it is in our nation­al inter­est to help stare down inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism and to pre­vent Afghanistan from again becom­ing a breed­ing ground for inter­na­tion­al terrorism. 

QUESTION: Would you refer to Ger­many and France’s con­tri­bu­tion as organ­is­ing folk danc­ing fes­ti­vals in Afghanistan? 

STEPHEN SMITH: Again, I’ve seen those reports. Let me again restate what the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment has said about the inter­na­tion­al community’s con­tri­bu­tion to Afghanistan. With the inclu­sion of Ton­ga at the Lis­bon Sum­mit, there are now 48 coun­tries mak­ing a con­tri­bu­tion in Afghanistan. So far as Aus­tralia is con­cerned, we are the largest non-NATO con­trib­u­tor. We are the tenth largest con­trib­u­tor. And in terms of spe­cial forces, we’re the third largest contributor. 

Ger­many and France, sig­nif­i­cant NATO coun­tries, make sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tions. Last time I looked Germany’s con­tri­bu­tion was just over 4000 troops, France’s con­tri­bu­tion was just under 4000 troops. Trag­i­cal­ly Ger­many has suf­fered over 50 casu­al­ties, and the French just under 50 casualties. 

Both those coun­tries have made a sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion, and con­tin­ue to make a sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion. And Aus­tralia, in the course of the Afghanistan effort, and in par­tic­u­lar since we came to office have worked close­ly with both France and Ger­many on the strate­gic imper­a­tives in Afghanistan and on the con­tri­bu­tion that all three of us are mak­ing there. So rule of thumb, Ger­many and France are in not just the top 10 con­trib­u­tors but in the top five con­trib­u­tors and, as senior NATO coun­tries, that is appro­pri­ate. And we wel­come very much their ongo­ing contribution. 

QUESTION: Admi­ral Willard, can I just ask what exact­ly you’re doing here in Perth? Would you like to see more US forces work­ing out at Gar­den Island? 

BOB WILLARD: Well, as the Min­is­ter men­tioned ear­li­er, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet with your SAS forces this morn­ing. And to the point of Afghanistan, they’ve come away hav­ing com­plet­ed coura­geous mis­sions and had great suc­cess in Uruz­gan and con­tin­ue to do so. 

So I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss Afghanistan and under­stand the per­spec­tives of Aus­tralia while I was here. I also had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it Stir­ling, and to vis­it one of your ships that has been recent­ly upgrad­ed for air defence, and under­stand those upgrades. 

As the Min­is­ter men­tioned ear­li­er, the Alliance between the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia is at least a bedrock Alliance; per­haps, you know, greater, per­haps the strongest Alliance that we have as a nation. And we are very proud of the con­tri­bu­tion and the inter­op­er­abil­i­ty that exists between our two armed forces.

And it’s impor­tant, as Pacif­ic Com­mand Com­man­der, that I take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it the var­i­ous sites in Aus­tralia where there are force con­cen­tra­tions and to have dis­cus­sions with the senior lead­er­ship there. 

As the Min­is­ter also men­tioned, there is a Glob­al Force Pos­ture Review ongo­ing. And, for­tu­nate­ly, our two Gov­ern­ments are going to have those high-lev­el dis­cus­sions begin­ning with the work­ing group that arrives next week. I think that it’s impor­tant that as Com­man­der of Pacif­ic Com­mand with an input to that study that I also take the time to put eyes on var­i­ous loca­tions in Aus­tralia where those dis­cus­sions may cover. 

STEPHEN SMITH: Could I just add to that. It’s a point I’ve men­tioned in the past. Aus­tralia, of course, regards the ongo­ing pres­ence and engage­ment of the Unit­ed States in the Asia Pacif­ic region as being absolute­ly essen­tial to sta­bil­i­ty in the region. And as we made clear at AUSMIN, we encour­age, indeed encour­age greater engage­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion, and we’ve wel­comed very much that greater engage­ment that we’ve seen from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, and we look for­ward to these con­ver­sa­tions continuing. 

QUESTION: Min­is­ter, can I just ask too, the per­cep­tion from the US Embassy that under you as a For­eign Min­is­ter, the Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs was out of the loop, DFAT would often have to go to the Israeli Ambas­sador to see what the Prime Min­is­ter was up to. What is your reac­tion to that? 

STEPHEN SMITH: I’m not propos­ing, as I’ve said, to be drawn on any com­men­tary that we find in cables that are alleged to have been circulated.

But I make the point that a num­ber of my Min­is­te­r­i­al col­leagues have made in the past, and I’ve made in the past: when it comes to diplo­mat­ic cables, it is very impor­tant that the con­fi­den­tial­i­ty and secu­ri­ty of diplo­mat­ic cables be pro­tect­ed. That’s very impor­tant for the busi­ness and the deal­ings between nation states. And that rea­son, togeth­er with the dan­gers that the release of such cables pose, either to nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests or to the safe­ty and well­be­ing of par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­u­als, whether they’re diplo­mats or oth­ers, is a very strong rea­son why we have con­demned so round­ly the pub­li­ca­tion of these materials. 

But diplo­mat­ic cables, like news­pa­per reports, can either con­tain gos­sip or sub­stan­tive analy­sis. And I’ll leave it to oth­ers to judge whether the mat­ters you’ve referred to, either in news­pa­pers or in diplo­mat­ic cables, are gos­sip or sub­stan­tial analysis. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →