Panetta: Regional Defense, Cyber Highlight AUSMIN Talks

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 14, 2011 — Asia-Pacif­ic defense coop­er­a­tion and cyber­se­cu­ri­ty will be among the top­ics on the table at the annu­al U.S.-Australia Min­is­te­r­i­al Con­sul­ta­tions here this week, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said today.

Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Panet­ta will meet with their Aus­tralian coun­ter­parts to dis­cuss area of mutu­al inter­est and to cel­e­brate the 60th anniver­sary of the ANZUS Treay, signed in 1951 by Aus­tralia, New Zealand and the Unit­ed States.

Meet­ing with reporters trav­el­ing here with him aboard an Air Force jet, Panet­ta said he worked very close­ly with the Aus­tralians in a num­ber of areas when he served as CIA direc­tor.

“They were very good part­ners,” he added, “and so in this capac­i­ty, I look for­ward to that same kind of rela­tion­ship.”

Panet­ta will join Clin­ton, Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Kevin Rudd and Defense Min­is­ter Stephen Smith for an offi­cial din­ner tonight. Tomor­row, the lead­ers will hold con­sul­ta­tions at the Pre­sidio, where the ANZUS treaty was signed 60 years ago this month.

At the invi­ta­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Julia Gillard, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma will com­mem­o­rate the 60th anniver­sary of the ANZUS alliance by vis­it­ing Aus­tralia in mid-Novem­ber.

Panet­ta said he’s look­ing for­ward to the min­is­te­r­i­al meet­ing, known as AUSMIN. “We’ll be dis­cussing how we can strength­en our part­ner­ship for the future, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Asia-Pacif­ic area,” he added.

A senior defense offi­cial told reporters yes­ter­day in a back­ground brief­ing that the lead­ers also will dis­cuss the evolv­ing Asia-Pacif­ic strate­gic envi­ron­ment, Afghanistan and Pak­istan and mutu­al efforts there, and recent events in the Mid­dle East, “to make sure that we’re coor­di­nat­ing our assis­tance and our sup­port to encour­age the demo­c­ra­t­ic tran­si­tions tak­ing place there.”

A range of short- and long-term alliance issues also will be dis­cussed, the offi­cial said, and the two nations will release a joint state­ment stat­ing that the ANZUS Treaty specif­i­cal­ly applies to cyber­space.

Panet­ta said the focus on cyber­space “is in large mea­sure a recog­ni­tion … that cyber is the bat­tle­field of the future, and that we are all going to have to work very hard not only to defend against cyber attacks, but to be aggres­sive with regard to cyber attacks as well.”

The best way to accom­plish that, the sec­re­tary said, “is not only on our own, but work­ing with our part­ners.”

Oth­er alliance top­ics include space coop­er­a­tion, coop­er­a­tion on U.S. mis­sile defense pro­grams, and progress made by the Bilat­er­al Force Pos­ture Work­ing Group estab­lished last year at the AUSMIN con­sul­ta­tions in Mel­bourne.

Work­ing group dis­cus­sions will focus on “a range of options,” he said, includ­ing increas­ing U.S. access to Aus­tralian train­ing, exer­cise and test ranges; poten­tial pre-posi­tion­ing of U.S. equip­ment in Aus­tralia; greater use by the Unit­ed States of Aus­tralian facil­i­ties and ports; and options for joint activ­i­ties in the region.

The Aus­tralians “are prob­a­bly our best part­ners in terms of the Asian-Pacif­ic area,” the sec­re­tary said. “We look for­ward to not only a good con­fer­ence, but [also to] strength­en­ing that rela­tion­ship for the future.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)