U.S., Australia Tackle 21st-century Challenges

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2011 — Aus­tralia and the Unit­ed States are deter­mined to broad­en their secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion efforts to counter threats and chal­lenges of the future, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said yes­ter­day.

Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta con­duct a press con­fer­ence with Aus­tralian Min­is­ter of Defense Stephen Smith, far left, and Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Kevin Rudd, sec­ond from left, after the Australia-U.S. Min­is­te­r­i­al talks at the Pre­sidio in San Fran­cis­co, Sept. 15, 2011.
DOD pho­to by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bai­ley
Click to enlarge

“The depth and breadth of dis­cus­sions we’ve had here today real­ly do con­firm for me that the Unit­ed States has no clos­er ally than Aus­tralia,” Panet­ta said in San Fran­cis­co fol­low­ing meet­ings there with senior Aus­tralian offi­cials. Panet­ta and Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton met with Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Kevin Rudd and Defense Min­is­ter Stephen Smith at the Pre­sidio for the annu­al Australia-U.S. Min­is­te­r­i­al Con­sul­ta­tions, called AUSMIN.

The meet­ing was held on the 60th anniver­sary of the sign­ing of the treaty at the Pre­sidio by Aus­tralia, New Zealand and the Unit­ed States in 1951.

After the meet­ing, the lead­ers released a 2011 Joint Communiqu�nd a sep­a­rate joint state­ment on cyber­space, and then held a press con­fer­ence in a room whose win­dows looked out through pine trees and Mon­terey cypress on the Gold­en Gate Bridge.

Aus­tralia and the Unit­ed States are strength­en­ing and broad­en­ing their 60-year-old alliance, the lead­ers said, to address togeth­er emerg­ing 21st-cen­tu­ry chal­lenges such as glob­al ter­ror­ism and cyber defense.

“With that goal in mind,” Panet­ta said, “we dis­cussed today the efforts of the bilat­er­al force pos­ture work­ing group … which has been mak­ing steady progress in devel­op­ing options for our two mil­i­taries to train and oper­ate togeth­er more close­ly, includ­ing more com­bined defense activ­i­ties and shared use of facil­i­ties.”

The work to strength­en the alliance’s pres­ence and pos­ture in the Pacif­ic “reflects a real­i­ty we all rec­og­nize,” he added, “that the secu­ri­ty and pros­per­i­ty of our two great nations depends on the secu­ri­ty and pros­per­i­ty of the Asia-Pacif­ic region.”

The joint state­ment on cyber secu­ri­ty sends a strong sig­nal about the two nations’ com­mit­ment to work togeth­er to counter and respond to cyber attacks, Panet­ta said.

“This is the bat­tle­field of the future,” the sec­re­tary said, “and our abil­i­ty to work togeth­er is extreme­ly impor­tant to the chal­lenge of being able to counter this very sig­nif­i­cant emerg­ing threat.”

Australia’s mil­i­tary con­tri­bu­tion to the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force is about 1,550 defense force mem­bers deployed with­in Afghanistan, accord­ing to the Aus­tralian government’s Defense Depart­ment. About 800 Aus­tralian mil­i­tary per­son­nel deployed in the broad­er Mid­dle East region pro­vide sup­port func­tions, includ­ing mar­itime, for Afghanistan oper­a­tions. About 50 Aus­tralian civil­ians are work­ing in Afghanistan, as well as 10 Aus­tralian defense civil­ians.

Panet­ta expressed the deep appre­ci­a­tion of the U.S. gov­ern­ment and the Amer­i­can peo­ple for Australia’s very strong part­ner­ship in Afghanistan and for the con­sid­er­able sac­ri­fices Aus­tralian troops and their fam­i­lies have made dur­ing this time of war.”

For 60 years, the sec­re­tary said, the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia “have gone into bat­tle togeth­er and we have bled togeth­er because of the shared val­ues and the deep bonds between our peo­ple. We are both immi­grant nations and that cre­ates a very strong bond between the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia, par­tic­u­lar­ly for this son of immi­grants.”

Clin­ton said each new glob­al chal­lenge has brought a new cause for coop­er­a­tion with Aus­tralia.

“That is exact­ly what hap­pened 10 years ago when Amer­i­ca was attacked on Sept. 11, just days after the 60th anniver­sary of our alliance,” she said. “Aus­tralia invoked the treaty to come to our defense.”

As Pacif­ic pow­ers, Aus­tralia, the Unit­ed States and their alliance have pro­vid­ed a con­text for the region’s dynam­ic eco­nom­ic growth, Clin­ton added, under­writ­ing peace and secu­ri­ty and pro­mot­ing trade and pros­per­i­ty.

“The detailed joint communiqu�e’re releas­ing today reflects the full range of our inter­ests, val­ues and vision,” the sec­re­tary said, “from mar­itime coop­er­a­tion to joint devel­op­ment projects to build­ing stronger ties with India to pro­mot­ing democ­ra­cy and pros­per­i­ty in the Pacif­ic islands.”

And, Clin­ton joked, “although Aus­tralians have tak­en over the Oscars, the Tour de France and now the U.S. Open, our affec­tion for your coun­try remains undi­min­ished.”

The attacks on 9/11, Rudd said, are “a salient reminder of our com­mon chal­lenge based on our com­mon val­ues to deal robust­ly, com­pre­hen­sive­ly and glob­al­ly with the chal­lenge of ter­ror­ism.”

Look­ing west­ward from the Cal­i­for­nia coast, Rudd said the Asia-Pacif­ic region is des­tined to flour­ish and thrive as a pow­er­ful eco­nom­ic engine with glob­al reach.

“The waters of the Pacif­ic we see out there off the coast of San Fran­cis­co will be the cen­ter of grav­i­ty for glob­al eco­nom­ic growth, for glob­al secu­ri­ty for the half-cen­tu­ry to come,” Rudd said. “And it is in our com­bined inter­est to ensure that this Pacif­ic cen­tu­ry is indeed a pacif­ic cen­tu­ry.”

And, the AUSMIN cyber state­ment rep­re­sents a new, crit­i­cal area of oper­a­tional engage­ment between Aus­tralia and the Unit­ed States, he said, “which affects gov­ern­ments, busi­ness and cit­i­zens the world over, the region over and our coun­tries indi­vid­u­al­ly.”

Like con­fronting ter­ror­ism, Rudd added, the cyber secu­ri­ty realm “is a bat­tle­ground that is fought uncon­ven­tion­al­ly often with­out a known ene­my. That is why it is crit­i­cal that this becomes a for­mal part of our alliance delib­er­a­tions and com­mit­ted coop­er­a­tion in the event of such attack in the future.”

The lead­ers also reviewed com­mon engage­ment with Chi­na and the coun­tries of North­east Asia, includ­ing South Korea and Japan, and with coun­tries in South­east Asia, includ­ing Australia’s neigh­bor, the Repub­lic of Indone­sia, Rudd said.

Addi­tion­al­ly, the lead­ers dis­cussed engage­ment across the Indi­an Ocean and South Asia and the impor­tant rela­tion­ship with India, as well as region­al chal­lenges includ­ing North Korea’s nuclear pro­gram, “which pro­found­ly con­cerns our two coun­tries,” Rudd said.

“More broad­ly we also reviewed our com­mon inter­ests in the Mid­dle East,” he added, includ­ing the Mideast peace process, recent changes under way in Egypt and Libya and, with great con­cern, the abuse of human rights and the killing of inno­cent peo­ple in Syr­ia.

Smith report­ed progress on the bilat­er­al work­ing group that for a year has been devel­op­ing options to align Aus­tralian and U.S. forces for improved nation­al secu­ri­ty.

“We are look­ing at increased joint exer­cis­es, increased joint train­ing [and] increased joint oper­a­tions,” Smith said, adding, “As I’ve put it col­lo­qui­al­ly in Aus­tralia, more ships in, ships out; more planes in, planes out; more troops in, troops out.”

The group has more to do, Smith said, not­ing the work is very impor­tant.

“Whilst we regard this very much poten­tial­ly as an exten­sion of the good work we already do,” he said, “it will in an oper­a­tional sense be the sin­gle largest poten­tial change to the day-to-day work­ing arrange­ment of the alliance since the estab­lish­ment of … joint facil­i­ties.”

Accord­ing to the communiqu�“Our dis­cus­sions have acknowl­edged that our respec­tive mil­i­tary forces must be pos­tured to respond in a time­ly and effec­tive way to the range of con­tin­gen­cies that may arise in our region, includ­ing human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief, and to enhance our abil­i­ty to work with the armed forces of region­al part­ners.”

Such dis­cus­sions con­tin­ue, Panet­ta said.

“Our goal here” he said, “is to try to strength­en that rela­tion­ship as best we can so we can send a clear sig­nal to the Asia-Pacif­ic region that the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia are going to con­tin­ue to work togeth­er, to make very clear to those that would threat­en us that we are going to stick togeth­er.”

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

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