U.S., Australia Announce Defense Cooperation Agreements
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 7, 2004 The United States and Australia agreed here today to cooperate on a missile defense system, to improve the ability of the countries' forces to work together, and to develop a joint, combined military training capability.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld appeared at a State Department news conference with their Australian counterparts Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Robert Hill -- after the 16th ministerial conference between the two countries since 1985.
"We've signed a memorandum of understanding pledging to work together on developing a system to defend our respective countries from missile attack," Rumsfeld said. "And the goal is to help ensure that our nations are able to deter and defend against countries that have access to ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction."
As part of transforming the countries' armed forces to meet present-day threats, Rumsfeld added, the United States and Australia are issuing a joint statement on interoperability and on the cooperative development of a joint, combined-training capability.
"By creating a training environment in Australia to test and evaluate our forces in a wide range of scenarios, our countries should be better able to integrate our military capabilities to meet the challenges of the 21st century," he said.
Hill underscored Australia's commitment to improving its armed forces' ability to work alongside allies. "We've learned a lot about interoperability," he said, "but we've also recognized where we can do better in that regard. And we're committed to further enhance our capabilities in terms of joint operations through a range of different interoperability initiatives."
Australian and U.S. forces, he added, can benefit from working more closely together and taking advantage of each other's training facilities.
The defense minister called the missile defense system "a long-term investment" for Australia. "But we believe," Hill added, "that we have a responsibility to address not only the threats of today, but the threats that we might face in the future. And new technologies have now made possible the ability to defend against incoming ballistic missiles, whether it's defending troops on the ground or large areas."
Hill said Australia will work with the United States to identify specific missile projects the two nations can work on together.
Powell called today's talks "productive."
"We of course reviewed the situation in Iraq, where United States troops and Australians are working together with citizens of many other countries to help the new government with the tasks of stabilization and reconstruction," he said. "We shared concerns about North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ways that we could cooperate with other countries to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We discussed how we'd partner with other countries in the region to enhance the security of international shipping."
Downer said Australia welcomes the "new, more positive phase in Iraq," and he pledged his country's continuing role in the coalition. "It won't come as a surprise to any of you to hear that we reaffirmed the fact that Australia is going to stay the course in Iraq," he said.
"We're going to stick by the Iraqi interim government and help them achieve their objectives and help Iraq become a free nation. This isn't a time for a country like Australia to turn its back on the Iraqi people and cut and run."
The foreign minister also praised the cooperation between Australia and the United States countering terrorism in Southeast Asia, which he said and "shouldn't be underestimated."
"We also had a good discussion about the Proliferation Security Initiative, dealing with the problem of particularly nuclear but also chemical and biological proliferation, and the excellent work that's been done, much of it led by the United States, in recent times to counter proliferation."
U.S.-Australian relations have come a long way, Powell noted. "We are working together for peace and security in the world in ways that could not have been imagined when these discussions first began," he said. "The one constant has been the closeness of the relationship. As close friends, we are open to each other and committed to the needs of both parties."