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Press Conference with Cohen and Moore, MoD Australia

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
July 17, 2000

Monday, July 17, 2000

(Joint Press Conference with Australian Minister of Defense John C. Moore at Maritime headquarters, Sydney, Australia)

Moore: It is my great pleasure to meet Secretary Cohen once again to discuss a wide range of matters. This occurs on a fairly regular basis. It's a great pleasure indeed to have Secretary Cohen here in Sydney both last night and today. The nature of the discussions are always very frank. They covered a wide range of both areas of immediate interest to us such as East Timor, Indonesia, and particularly Secretary Cohen's recent visit to North Asia. You've recently witnessed the signing of the statement of principles between the United States and Australia. That gives us very great access to technology, something which we have been seeking for some considerable time in particular as relates to the submarines in Australia. And we have Secretary Cohen to thank enormously for the efforts he has put in to facilitate this agreement that has been months in negotiations with the State Department and the Pentagon to make sure that this agreement gives us the access to the required levels of technology, which is terribly important to Australia. As you know the Australian Defence Force, by the nature of its size, is very technology minded and will increasingly be so in the future. And hence the enormous importance of this, this morning. I welcome you, Bill, here today, and I thought the discussions were very fruitful and I look forward to renewing those in the future.

Cohen: Mr. Minister, thank you very much. This is my third trip to Australia during the past three years and as always I am delighted to be in the Olympic city of Sydney, glad to be meeting with my friend John Moore, who I must say is in fine shape after a very long trek back from the United States, and to be in a position to discuss security concerns with a strong ally and effective partner.

The alliance between Australia and the United States is, in fact, the anchor to our policy in the Pacific region. And we share three important goals: to maintain peace and stability, to promote free trade and economic growth, and to advance democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. In the last year we have faced challenges to these goals. Australia has taken the lead in meeting these challenges, and I want to personally take this opportunity to thank Australia for an effective, highly professional job that it is doing in East Timor, for helping to protect and evacuate Americans in the Solomon Islands. That was very important and we truly appreciate your leadership, John, on that. Next year, Australia and the United States will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS pact and I am confident that our countries will work together as well over the next 50 years as they have over the past. I am delighted to be here and delighted to have participated in the signing of the statement of principles and as you, John, have pointed out, this will be mutually beneficial, that the United States does invest heavily in technology and our investment will certainly pay dividends in making it easier for us to share information, technology, and to make our relationship even stronger. So with that, Mr. Minister, I'll yield the floor.

Moore: OK, as you can see he's been in the Senate. Are there any questions?

Q: Mr. Secretary, Jim Mannion from AFP. Could you tell us whether the United States is considering upgrading its defense relations with Indonesia, including possibly resuming arms sales to Indonesia?

Cohen: There have been reports that the United States has renewed arms sales to Indonesia, but those reports are incorrect. What we have tried to do is to re-engage Indonesia on a military-to-military level, to take it on a step-by-step basis to encourage Indonesian military officials and officers to share in conferences, other types of academic institutions, but to try to reestablish and re-engage Indonesia on a military-to-military level. But it's in the initial phases now. We have not considered selling arms to Indonesia at this point.

Q: Mr. Secretary, to maintain its role as an effective ally in this region, by how much should Australia increase its defense spending, in your view?

Cohen: It should increase its defense spending according to what it perceives to be its needs. Only Australia can make that determination. I believe it's important, as your prime minister and defense minister have pointed out, that there needs to be an increase in the future, but that's up for the Australian people and their leadership to determine, balancing its needs for domestic purposes and security purposes. But that is something I am confident the Australian leadership will do very successfully.

Q: Minister, any suggestion?

Moore: No, we don't canvass figures in these sorts of meetings. The prime minister and myself, as the secretary has said, have indicated a willingness and disposition to increase defense spending, but as to the quantum, you have to wait.

Q: Sir, Bernard Lagan, Sydney Morning Herald. What role could Australia play in your national missile defense system?

Cohen: Well, first I should point out that there has been no decision made to go forward with the deployment of a national missile defense system. This is something that President Clinton will have to determine after he receives a full briefing and recommendation from me, the secretary of State, and the national security advisor. So, no decision has been made to go forward at this point. But obviously, Australia has played an important role in terms of its early warning capabilities, and I would expect that should a decision be made to go forward at some point that Australia will continue to play an important role in shared early warning so that that promotes stability throughout the Asia-Pacific region as well as for the United States.

Q: Mr. Moore, you mentioned the latest free-up of technological input for the submarines, and also, I presume for the AWC. Does this include access to source codes for vital programs?

Moore: As I understand it, as I am advised, the necessary clearances for the type of radar equipment that we wanted have been granted.

Q: Source code?

Moore: As far as I know.

Q: Mr. Cohen, Paul Tee from Reuters. Two church groups in the last two days have called for an international intervention in the Moluku Islands to stop escalating violence there. Would the United States accept or support an East Timor-style intervention there?

Cohen: What we have indicated is that we believe that Australia is closer to the situation, that we will look for some leadership on the part of Australia in terms of formulating our own policies in the region. But we will coordinate very carefully in terms of what responses would be appropriate. But that's something I think Australia must look at very carefully.

Q: Now a follow-up for Mr. Moore. Has Australia considered such an action or what is Australia's position now?

Moore: We hadn't been asked to participate or to help in any way in that area at all.

Q: Who would have to ask you?

Moore: Well, the Indonesian government for a start.

Cohen: And I should point out that the United States has not been asked to take any action, and we would have to review the entire circumstance before considering participating in any way.

Q: Bill Gertz, Washington Times. I'd like to ask the minister if he could comment on what his defense priorities are in terms of hardware: new ships, aircraft, ground forces, all of the above, and if Mr. Cohen could comment afterwards on the Iranian missile test -- how it fits in with missile defense issues?

Moore: Well, as it relates to our capital assets purchase, I guess the heading is "all of the above." But, you'll have to wait until the white paper comes out at the end of the year, in which we will outline our view of strategic necessities and realities in the region, and what we do in relation to setting our capabilities to meet those perceived obligations. In the green paper that's currently distributed for discussion you'll notice that there is some discussion of the types of capital assets we've got, but all answers will be provided in the white paper which will become available in November/December.

Cohen: With respect to the Shahab-3 test, this has not come as a surprise. You may no doubt have noticed over the past several months during the course of my many public presentations, I have pointed to Iran in the testing of the Shahab-3 and what I assume will be the testing of the [Shahab-]4 in the future, and beyond that. It is one of the reasons why it's important for the United States to undertake to research, develop, and potentially deploy an NMD system that would provide protection against countries such as Iran posing a threat to the United States. So we have watched it very closely. This has not come as a surprise, that they will continue to research, test, and develop and deploy the missiles in the future.

Q: SBS-TV. Mr. Cohen, have you asked Australia's support for NMD straight out and what was the response?

Cohen: There has been no request on the part of the United States to Australia at this point. What we have indicated is that no decision has been made as of yet to deploy an NMD, and so it would be premature for us to make such a request.

Q: Mr. Moore, could I just ask a follow-up on that. If the U.S. does go ahead with a national missile defense system, should Australia participate?

Moore: Well, we'll wait until a proposition comes to us from the American government. You've heard the secretary just say that no decision has been made by them yet. That's some distance down the road, and once that's made the appropriate channel would be to discuss it with the Australian government. When that does occur we'll respond.

Q: Nikkei. My question is about the Marine base in Okinawa. I heard that there is some opinion that the U.S. Marine base should move from Okinawa to Australia. What do you think of this opinion?

Cohen: I am not aware of such opinions, and I believe that the United States and Japan agree, and that the United States should maintain a presence in Okinawa, and we look forward to continuing that presence subject to the agreement of the Japanese government obviously. But, we intend to maintain a large presence throughout the Asia-Pacific region of roughly 100,000 personnel. We have done so in the past. We look forward to doing so in the future as part of our engagement strategy, so we foresee that continuing.

Moore: Well, once again, as I said in the last answer, it hasn't become an issue. We haven't been asked to take these troops or the base there. Currently, I should point out that Australians and various elements of the American defense force do exercise together in north Australia. There are a considerable number of exercises taking place there (inaudible) and Marines, exercising in the north.

Q: Secretary Cohen. Sir, you're quoted in the "Sunday" program yesterday as saying that Australian participation in the NMD was going to use radar. I understood, and this is from defense releases here, that the more likely participation, including the new dome at Pine Gap, is for the SDIRS. Anything you are able to say on that at all?

Cohen: I think that, basically, to leave it as I have indicated, that Australia plays an important role in early warning, and that we would expect, and hope, that that would continue in the future, certainly if there is an NMD program.

Q: This is a question for the Defense minister. Mr. Moore, what has been the impact on the Collins class submarine as a consequence to this agreement?

Moore: Well, Kirsty, the Collins class submarine -- I think everybody in Australia seems to have an opinion on it -- but, there is absolutely no doubt, that the way ahead to a Collins class submarine when I came to this position was totally clouded. As a consequence of discussions with the American Navy and the American administration, and in particular, with the secretary, we were able to use both their testing tanks and other technology to find out, firstly, the answer to the question of the noise, and more particularly, the question about the combat system. As you all know we are now moving to acquire the outstanding shares held by the Swedish company that's being sold to the German engineering company. When that's completed we have then been proposing to on-sell those shares to Australian interests. What has occurred today in the signed statement of principles, is that it does widen the area of cooperation, and I think that that in itself will completely see the way clear for the six Collins subs to be fully operational and very important items in the Australian defense force.

Q: If I could ask a follow-up. How important is it for Australia to have a viable submarine fleet? Is it important to pass on those secrets?

Cohen: Are you asking me?

Q: Yes.

Cohen: I think it is very important. Obviously, to the extent that Australia thinks it's important, we think it's important as well, and have been quite willing to be helpful in this matter for Australia to have this capability we think is very important.

Q: Reuters. Why do you think that Iran chose this particular moment to test that missile? Do you think that it had anything to do with the Middle East process? NMD?

Cohen: I really can't speculate as to what motivation prompted the Iranians to test it at this time. They have tried to test it in the past. Past tests were not successful. This represents a continuation of their testing program, whether it was scheduled to coincide with the discussions in Washington is a matter only the Iranians can determine. We don't have any information pertaining to that. We accept it for what it is. We know that they will continue to test it, they will continue to develop a longer-range missile range capability, and that's one of the reasons why we believe it's important that the United States continue its research and testing and development program for the NMD, precisely to deal with countries such as North Korea, Iran, Iraq, others.

Q: Do you think that the fact that they tested it at this point in the NMD debate makes you more likely to lean towards a recommendation?

Cohen: It doesn't change anything. We have discussed this in the past. We believe that North Korea, Iran, potentially Iraq, in the future, and others, will develop long-range missile capability. This has not come as a surprise. This is something that I have talked about at length to our European allies, to the Russians, and others, that this is what we anticipate. This confirms our anticipation, and so this is a factor that will have to be taken into account in terms of what the time-frame will be, when Iran would have a capability of striking U.S. territory or that of European nations. So, it doesn't change anything. It just simply confirms what we have been saying.

Moderator: Could we have two more questions before we wrap it up please?

Q: Mr. Moore, have you discussed the Fijian crisis and the possibility of sanctions?

Moore: Well, we discussed the Fijian crisis in relation to the whole of the South Pacific and not any particular issue in itself. The question of sanctions relates to the Australian government decision, and that will come from the foreign minister in due course.

Q: Mr. Moore, SBS TV. The statement of principles - could you elaborate a bit more on what it actually is - you've said better access to U.S. technology - could you explain what that's going to mean and how much it's going to cost?

Moore: Well, the statement of principles outlines the way in which we can cooperate with the United States in the advancement of technology over the coming years. Now because of the nature of the Australian Defence Force we are relatively small in size, therefore, are very dependent on good technology. We must have best in the best. It's pretty clear to me that the United States who spend something of the order of 30 times more than we spend on defense have the best technology and if we can leverage from their work, it would be highly beneficial to the Australian Defence Force. The statement of principles gives us the ability to do that and I'm particularly pleased, as I've said before, for the work the Secretary has put into this because it is very much his personal effort behind it. In the future years we'll gain enormous benefit from it, enormous benefit. In the past there've been certain areas which just frankly have not been available, full stop. In the future we'll be able to access that, and that makes a lot of things possible.

Q: Minister, what type of technology are you talking about, specifics?

Moore: Well, I'm not able to get into the specific areas but just take the submarine's position for a start. We are able there to access areas which in terms of the combat system which may not have been available otherwise but there are a lot of areas that I don't want to go into.

Moderator: Thank you everybody. Thanks for coming.


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