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Cohen Promotes Security Alliances During Australia Visit

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

SYDNEY, July 31, 1998 – The security alliance between Australia and the United States and the U.S. military presence anchor peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, Defense Secretary William Cohen said en route here July 27.

After flying nearly 20 hours nonstop from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Cohen arrived July 28 to participate with other American and Australian leaders in the annual Australia Ministerial talks. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Army Gen. Henry Shelton, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, were scheduled to join Cohen at the forum July 31.

"We believe this relationship with Australia is key to the stability in the region," Cohen told reporters. "Australia has fought with us in all of the five wars of this century. They have been with us from the beginning in dealing with Iraq, and they are a force for peace and stability throughout the world."

The ministerial meetings will concentrate on ways the two nations can improve security cooperation into the next century. U.S. objectives include forming a defense acquisition committee to improve collaboration on developing and purchasing weapons and new technology. Among the topics the committee would address are Australia's purchase of either the U.S. F-22 or Joint Strike Fighter and collaboration on what DoD leaders have been calling the "Revolution in Military Affairs."

The latter includes finding ways to increase interoperability between the two militaries. The new committee would address Australian participation in conceiving and developing technology and information systems.

"We are trying to facilitate [Australia's] access to our latest technology," Cohen said. "We want to make sure there is no technology gap in the future. We are also going to lay a foundation for working with them on information security and information assurance."

Among the U.S. technology items piquing Australian interest most are advanced fighter aircraft -- the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter, Cohen said. Australian acquisitions of U.S. military technology currently total $5.2 billion.

Cohen last visited the region in January, when the region was reeling from a financial crisis. During that visit, he met then- President Suharto of Indonesia and tried to persuade him to cooperate with U.S. and International Monetary Fund officials trying to stave off a complete economic collapse of Asia's second most populous nation.

The secretary will return to Indonesia to meet with the nation's new leader, B. J. Habibie, and military officials Aug. 1. He's expected to continue urging Indonesian cooperation in maintaining regional security.

He then flies to Manila to meet with Philippine leaders and to promote the visiting forces agreement forged in January. The agreement still requires Philippine senate ratification before the door opens to new training and security arrangements.

Cohen returns to Washington Aug. 4.

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