MELBOURNE, Australia, Nov. 8, 2010 — The United States is seeing signs that sanctions against Iran by the international community are starting to have an impact, and, while working to strengthen its relationship with China, will maintain the right to navigate its naval ships in international waters, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.
U.N. Security Council sanctions, plus even more rigorous sanctions imposed by individual counties, are “creating pressure on the Iranian government” and “getting their attention,” Gates said during a news conference following today’s Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations.
“Without getting into details, we see evidence that the sanctions are biting more deeply than the Iranians anticipated they would,” Gates told reporters in a roundtable following the news conference. “And that the actions individual countries have taken, on top of the U.N. Security Council resolution, have had considerable effect in terms of aggravating Iran’s trade and financial operations.”
Gates reiterated President Barack Obama’s statement that “all options are on the table” to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. “We are doing what we need to do to ensure that he has those options,” Gates said.
He expressed confidence, however, that the political and economic approach now being taken shows promise.
Gates said much of today’s talks here focused on China, and “additional ways in which we can engage China and work with China.”
Noting that he sees “some promising signs from China in terms of military-to-military relations,” Gates said he has accepted an invitation to visit Beijing early next year to encourage more.
Secertary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who participated with Gates and Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defense Minister Stephen Smith at the summit, said the United States has “a very robust dialog with China” and welcomes its economic success and the positive effects it is having on the Chinese people.
But as China becomes “more of a player in regional and global affairs,” she said, “we would expect that China will be a responsible player and will participate in the international framework of rules that govern the way nations behave.”
Gates, asked about territorial disputes in the South China Sea, cited the important work during last month’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministerial conference in Hanoi and in other forums by a variety of countries to establish rules ensuring freedom of navigation and maritime security within the context of international laws.
“It seems to us that that kind of multilateral engagement among all the countries, including China, is the most productive way forward,” he said.
But in the meantime, Gates said, the United States won’t allow China to keep it from operating in international waters.
“We believe and long have believed in the importance of freedom of navigation, and we intend to abide by international law,” Gates said. “We will assert freedom of navigation.”
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasized that no country has the right to restrict another’s use of international waters.
“They aren’t owned by China. They aren’t owned by Korea,” Mullen said. “They are international waters in which … many other countries have sailed forever. My expectation is we will continue to do that.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)