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News Conference after Australian Ministerials

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 30, 2001

Sunday, July 30, 2001

(Press conference at the American Embassy Canberra, Australia, with U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, U.S. Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Australian Defense Minister Peter Reith, and Australian Navy Adm. Chris Barrie.)

Downer: Right, well ladies and gentlemen, can I say we have just completed a very full and productive day's discussion with Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld and also Admiral Blair, the CINCPAC [Commander in Chief, Pacific]. The Australia-U.S. ministerial consultation is the most senior and important forum in the Australia-U.S. alliance and it gives very practical expression to what is a remarkably close and wide ranging partnership between our two countries.

Three facts distinguish this year's Australia-U.S. ministerial consultations [AUSMIN] from their predecessors. In the first place, symbolically, this is the first meeting of the new century. Secondly, it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the historic ANZUS treaty. And thirdly, this is the first AUSMIN that we have had with the new Bush administration. So, there's been no better way really to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ANZUS, than through the vitality and enthusiasm and interest at today's meetings.

Our talks are in particular focused on regional issues, on Asia-Pacific issues. They are focused on southeast Asia, and obviously, particularly, Indonesia and East Timor. They are focused on northeast Asia, China, the Korean peninsula, and so on. And we also had some discussions about broader multilateral arms control issues. We conveyed our appreciation for the Bush administration's emphasis on upgrading the U.S. alliance system, on strengthening alliances, and also the very strong commitment by the administration for the United States to play an active, constructive and peaceful role in the Asia-Pacific region.

If there is one particular feature of the ANZUS alliance which particularly stands out over and above the mechanical defense aspects of the relationship, it is the role that ANZUS plays in embracing the United States in the security architecture of the Asia-Pacific region. The alliance with Japan, the alliance with South Korea, the alliance with Australia through ANZUS, these links, on the part of the United States are fundamentally important to the involvement of the United States and the architecture of our region.

Without the United States, this region would be a much more uncertain place than it currently is. Let me just say in conclusion that Mr. Vaile took part in the trade discussions during a working lunch. We had some discussion there about the possibility of a free trade agreement, and we had some discussion about the WTO round and then some detailed issues that Mr. Vaile raised in particular. The question of resolving the problem of lamb exports to the United States, which I understand through discussions between Mr. Vaile and Bob Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Representative, it is fairly close to conclusion. So, Colin can I ask you to say a few words as well?

Powell: Thank you very much Alex, and let me, on behalf of Secretary Rumsfeld and the other members of our delegation, express our deep appreciation for all the hospitality that the government of Australia has shown to us in hosting this very important conference. We are very pleased to be here representing the new Bush administration, giving solid evidence to the proposition that the United States is a Pacific nation, has been a Pacific nation and will remain engaged in this region politically, diplomatically and with the presence of our military forces. Let there be no doubt about that. Don and my presence here today, I think, is solid evidence for that. I also want to join you in celebrating the 50th anniversary of this great alliance. And more than just the 50 years that the alliance has been together, but the more than 100 years that the United States and Australia have worked together for the cause of peace in this region, and fought side by side in every war in this century.

Hopefully, there will be no wars in this new century that will require that kind of engagement in combat and we can achieve such a vision if we continue to work together. If we work together to help the nations in this region achieve their dreams through trade, economic activity. Through valuing human rights and individual rights by doing everything we can to encourage the spread of democracy, political democracy and economic democracy. And we spent most of our day talking about this.

We reviewed the situation in Northeast and Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, just as the Foreign Minister mentioned a moment ago. I had a chance to brief my Australian colleagues on my trip through the region, to Vietnam and to the ARF meetings in Vietnam, Asian Regional Forum meetings. The visit that I had in China, stops in Korea, stops in Japan, to show that the United States in all of these places, whether it's an old ally such as Japan and Korea and Australia, or new nations that we are working with that we haven't had similar relationships with in the past, such as China and Vietnam. New transforming events taking place in Vietnam and China, and we wanted to make sure they understood that the United States wanted to engage and be helpful in this transformation process.

And so it was an excellent series of discussions we had today, not only the presentation of formal papers across the table, but more importantly informal discussions where we let our hair down and in the spirit of friendship and goodwill, help cement this relationship even tighter than it has been in past years. It has been successful for the past 50 years and I'm quite confident that it will be successful for at least another 50 years in the future.

We also focused on bilateral trade issues of importance to both of our nations, and as the minister noted, we talked about the Australian proposal for a free trade agreement with the United States I reassured the foreign minister and the prime minister that the United States would give that proposal serious consideration in the days and months ahead.

Finally I noted that the president is very much looking forward to Prime Minister Howard's visit in September and on that note, I will close once again, thanking you, Mr. Minister, and your colleagues for all the wonderful arrangements you have made for this conference.

Downer: Now if you have any questions, the protocol here in terms of questions is the United States journalists are sitting on the right and the Australians on the left. So we will alternate with a question from the Americans and a question from the Australians.

Q: [inaudible] Secretary Rumsfeld, could you talk about the discussion today that came up on biological weapons and also could you talk about nations that possess biological weapons? You alluded to key countries yesterday, could you flesh that out today?

Rumsfeld: Well, we did have a discussion on the subject and, of course, both the ministers from Australia and the ministers from the United States discussed their views on the subject. The reality is that there are countries on the face of the Earth that are actively engaged in developing biological weapons, and the ability to weaponize with respect of those very dangerous weapons. It is something that is of deep concern to all of us in the United States and across the globe. I don't know that there is much that can be added to it, except to say that we as a country monitor as closely as is possible the steps that are being taken by various countries in this area and we certainly recognize that they constitute a very serious danger to those regions as well as the entire world.

Q: Just a question on the issue of the lamb exports [inaudible] what was discussed over the working lunch. Is there any concrete commitment as to how that will be resolved or a timetable as to when you will start lifting the tariffs and quotas on Australian lamb?

Downer: We hope that that matter will be resolved in the next couple of weeks. As I understand it, Bob Zoellick, the USTR, is working on a particular solution to the problem from America's point of view with the U.S. industry and those consultations are yet to be completed. But we hope to hear within the next couple of weeks what the Americans' formal response will be. And honestly we very much hope it will be satisfactory in light of the fact that we were successful in the WTO. So we would expect the outcome to be consistent with the WTO.

Q: I wanted to ask a question of Secretary Rumsfeld. Before coming to Australia, you spoke of China's dictatorial leadership in a interview with a paper in Washington, and you said that the Chinese military threat was the main reason for keeping U.S. forces in Asia. Secretary Powell on the other hand has spoken favorably of China's --

Rumsfeld: I doubt that you can find a transcript that suggests that I said what you just quoted me as having said, as far as the threat and so forth. There is no question but that the People's Republic of China has a political system that is notably different from those of Australia or the United States. And it is an authoritarian system, a communist dictatorship by their own testimony.

Q: My question is whether there isn't a sort of conflicted view within the administration on China, that the two of your some way represent, and I'm curious to hear what your view on China and the threat it might pose to the United States is?

Rumsfeld: Well, Colin Powell and I talk every day and meet several times a week and I don't know that there are differences between us. My personal view is that the People's Republic of China's future is not yet written, that they are evolving. Our relationship with them is multi-faceted, it's political, it's economic, and clearly there are security implications. What kinds of decisions they will make over the coming period I think is unclear and certainly we are hopeful that they will engage the world economically and politically in a way that is smooth and marks a transition from where they've been to where we hope they are going.

Powell: If I could just add, yes, the secretary and I have also talked about this on a regular basis, this specific subject. We don't know where they are going in the future. But we believe that with the kind of engagement that we have underway with them -- economic, pointing out human rights problems to them, suggesting to them that accession to the World Trade Organization and becoming part of the international community brings with it certain responsibilities with respect to behavior, will move them in the right direction.

But we can't see into the future, so at the same time we have to remain strong. We have to not be naive, and we have to keep following their actions very, very carefully. Obviously I would have come to it from a foreign policy perspective and the secretary from a defense perspective. But there is no real space between us as suggested.

Q: [inaudible] Beijing?

Rumsfeld: As I said, I have characterized the relationship between the United States as multi-faceted, and certainly it is in our interest to see if we can behave in a way, the United States as well as other countries, that will encourage their entry and engagement with the world in a way that is peaceful and orderly. We are looking for code words to describe a relationship that is in transition, I think, is a challenge. The relationship between the United States and Australia is not in transition as such. It is a very close partnership and one that we value a great deal. The relationship between the Peoples' Republic of China and the United States, clearly, has been bumpy lately, with respect to the EP-3 flight and with respect, as Secretary Powell mentioned, some aspects of human rights. So it's a very different kind of thing, and it's evolving over time, and we certainly hope it evolves in a very peaceful and constructive way.

Q: Secretary Powell, [inaudible] in the discussion of [inaudible] security of Asia-Pacific, reference is always made to the U.S. alliances of Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Sir, have the alliances with Thailand and the Philippines been downgraded? Are the budgetary problems of those countries now such that they can't participate effectively in military alliances with the U.S.? Is there a policy never to mention these alliances? What is the state of the U.S. military alliances with Thailand and the Philippines?

Powell: They are good and they are strong, and there was no intention on my part to denigrate them or downgrade them. When one looks at the principal actors in this part of the world, it really is with Japan, Korea and with Australia, but we had good conversations earlier this week with representatives from both Thailand and the Philippines at the ARF Regional Forum, and we celebrated those alliances as well.

Q: Robin Wright, Los Angeles Times, to Foreign Minister Downer. In the past, Australia has expressed concern about unilateralism by the United States. Most recently represented by the actions on biological treaties. Did that come up in your discussions today, and if so what was the American response, and secondly are you concerned about the potential renewal of military contacts between United States and Indonesia in light of ongoing instability in a number of Indonesian areas?

Downer: Well, we have never expressed concern about unilateralism by the United States. In fact, I've made the point, on a number of occasions, that the Bush administration has been very consultative with an ally such as us on a range of different issues, and, for example, on the question of the Biological Weapons Convention additional protocol, a representative of the administration came here, I spent some time with him myself -- Mr. Malley -- he consulted with my department and other government departments here and I appreciate that consultation.

The fact that the United States doesn't wish to go along with the additional protocol to the BWC is a point that we don't agree on, because we would like to feel it would be possible to proceed with that additional protocol, but, you know, it has to be kept in some perspective. Nobody's suggesting, and no one should suggest that the United States is anything but vigilant and determined in its opposition to the proliferation or even the use of biological weapons. I mean, it's a fundamental concern to the United States, and it's a fundamental concern to us. They make the judgment -- which they can announce this themselves -- but they make the judgment they don't think the additional protocol is going to be particularly effective or in the best interests of the United States. We make a judgment which is -- well, that, of course, it's not going to be a hundred per cent effective, but it would be better than not having it.

But from this it would be wrong to extrapolate that we hold a view that the United States is somehow unilateralist, because our experience with the Bush administration is that they've been extremely consultative.

And that brings me to the second part of your question where I can prove the point that we've had very substantial consultation with each other about Indonesia, and one of the issues that we've discussed -- back in March when I was in Washington I discussed with Secretary Powell, and we've discussed here today -- is the extent to which we, the two of us, should have contacts with the Indonesian military. Now it's certainly our view that while our contacts with the Indonesian military are substantially less than they were before 1999, that it makes sense for us, nevertheless, to retain some network of contacts with the Indonesian military, given the importance of that military to the whole structure of Indonesian society.

I'm pleased to hear that the United States administration, which obviously has to work under the constraints of the Leahy legislation, nevertheless sees value in maintaining and somewhat improving contacts with the Indonesian military. But having said that, that's not to think there's a great story here about how the United States and Australia aren't concerned about human rights. Of course we are, and of course for us one of the points that we would always wish to emphasize to the Indonesian military is the ongoing importance of adhering to international norms of human rights as they deal with, frankly, some very difficult problems. It's not as though the secessionists themselves are necessarily great champions of human rights, but, you know, in dealing with these problems the Indonesians have to be cautious to adhere to the international norms of human rights. But bearing all that in mind, we see value in the United States, and we see great value in Australia having quite substantial contact with the Indonesian military in dealings with the Indonesian military.

Powell: We did have a good spirited discussion about the biological warfare convention protocol and we disagree on that issue. We both had a chance to explain our views. The United States view is not just that the protocol is not in our, the United States', interest. We don't think it serves the job for the world. We don't believe the convention is verifiable, and that was said at the time it was signed, and we don't think this protocol really stops those who wish to proliferate from proliferating and would do much to verify or catch those who are already proliferating with the verification regime that would be there. So it's not only not serving our interests, but we didn't think it was achieving its intended purpose of stopping proliferation or finding those who are already proliferating.

Rumsfeld: May I add a word also, Mr. Minister?

Downer: Yes, of course.

Rumsfeld: On the subject of Indonesia. After discussions last evening and today, I find the position of the United States, with respect to Indonesia, is, as far as I can tell, identical to that of Australia. Both in terms of human rights as well as with respect of military-to-military contact.

Q: [inaudible] China has warned Australia in the past, not to be a cat's paw when it comes to missile defense, for example, and its cooperation with the United States.

Rumsfeld: I'm having a little trouble hearing you, I'm afraid.

Q: China has warned Australia in the past, not to be what it calls a cat's paw in terms of missile defense. I wonder if you could tell us what view you have about Chinese efforts to modernize its missile fleets, including, for example, putting multiple warheads on missiles, what role that plays in regional security, and what you think that says about their criticisms of the missile defense plan.

Rumsfeld: I'm afraid I may have missed a part of the question, but I guess what I would say about missile defense it that it is defensive and not offensive, and it really ought not to offend anyone other than a country that intends to use ballistic missiles to impose their will on their neighbors.

Downer: If I could just add on this question too, that what was interesting at the recent ASEAN Regional Forum meeting was that this turned out not to be an issue of great moment or great substance in the discussions. It wasn't an issue that was promoted aggressively by China, or by Russia, or anyone else, and I think the atmosphere in terms of a debate on this issue has changed very substantially as a result of the very successful recent meeting between President Bush and President Putin where they've moved -- the United States, in particular -- have moved towards having intensive consultations with the Russians on security architecture and, I mean, you know, it's a point we've made all along. It's very important that the United States administration enters into the same type of intensive discussion with the Chinese, and they're committed to doing so, and I think that the Chinese have responded very positively to the commitment by the administration to those intensive consultations.

Q: Jon Leyne, BBC: A question for Secretary Rumsfeld. Firstly, we've been told that the EP-3 incident, the compensation issue, is close to resolution. Can you give us any clue how much the check's going to be, and also are you happy with this formulation that the United States is prepared to meet North Korea at any time and any place for discussions?

Rumsfeld: With respect to the question of compensation relating to the EP-3, the position of the United States has been that there, undoubtedly, are certain aspects of the cost that are appropriate for the United States to pay and with respect to things that required -- like fuel, or things that needed to be done to move the aircraft out -- there are other aspects of the costs that may have been incurred that, in our view, would probably not be appropriate to be paid. I guess the bill is currently being examined and I do not have it with me, nor have we come to a conclusion with respect to what portion is appropriate, and with respect to North Korea, I stand fully behind Secretary Powell's positions.

Q: [inaudible] the repeating references to the need of greater security cooperation in the region, particularly southeast Asia, and references to Australia, to both sides, and Australia playing a leading role. How do you see that role more specifically and what do you say to those people who characterize the relationship as Australia playing a deputy sheriff?

Downer: I predicted someone might ask that question.

Powell: I don't really understand this deputy sheriff line, it's nonsense. We are partners with Australia and Australia plays a leading role in this part of the world. Australia lives here, it's their neighborhood, and we're proud to be partners with them. And the suggestion that one of us is subordinate to the other is not consistent with the 50-year history of this arrangement. I can assure you it is not viewed in that way by anybody in the United States government, and I'll speak for this administration and I'll bet you that I can speak for the last administration as well.

Downer: And we've said on many, many occasions that clearly Australia doesn't envisage itself being a deputy sheriff or other countries being sheriffs. International relations doesn't work as sheriffs and deputy sheriffs, and so on. We, as Secretary Powell says, have a very close partnership with the United States and we're unapologetic about that. We are close to the United States, we work closely with them and I'm sure we always will do. And that's just the way our relationship is.

Q: A question for Secretary Rumsfeld. Today National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said that the administration was developing an Iraq policy that would look at a more resolute use of military force. Would this include changing the rules of engagement for U.S. fighter pilots on the no-fly zone so they could strike preemptively Iraqi military targets if they were attacking civilian targets inside Iraq and could you flesh out this idea a little --

Rumsfeld: If who was attacking civilians?

Q: -- if Iraqi military forces were suspected of attacking civilian forces, referring to their recent troop movements near Kurdistan?

Rumsfeld: I have not had a chance to see what Condi Rice said so I'm a little reluctant to comment on it, except that there is no question but that the U.S. policy with respect to Iraq is a broader one. It is broader than simply what the coalition aircraft may or may not do when they come under fire. I think it would not be appropriate for me to prejudge what might come out of meetings that are being held.

Q: [inaudible] to the American side. The head of your mobility command, General Robertson, recently spoke about expanding or possibly expanding what he called the toehold in Australia. I'm wondering if you could expand a little bit on what he might have meant by toeholds and what your views are on that. And if the Australian side could tell us whether they would be willing to have an expanded toehold in Australia?

Powell: Admiral Blair?

Blair: I think the best way to answer that question is to look at what happened in the East Timor situation when it was necessary to respond there. An intermediate support base that was built in the Darwin area and all countries who were assisting that operation provided logistic support and transportation, others from that region. It's that sort of flexible logistics network that is the way of the future in terms of dealing with these sorts of things that have to be done in this part of the world and I think that that's what we need in the future and it's not -- it doesn't have to do with huge bases, it has to do with being able to move people and information quickly.

Reith: I will only add to make the point that, as you would be aware, Secretary Rumsfeld has a number of significant reviews going on within defense in the U.S. We've had a bit of a discussion today about some of the sort of general directions in which they might proceed. But as to coming to any conclusive propositions, I think the U.S. is a fair way from that. I mean, from my point of view we have training facilities and arrangements with the U.S. in place today, we think that's an important part of the relationship. We had, for example, a big exercise on the Queensland coast "Tandem Thrust" recently which was I think a very successful exercise. As to whether or not we change the nature of that relationship in the future well, we don't have any propositions today. You'd expect the reviews to go on and what happens after that, well, that's very much in the future.

Q: [inaudible]

Reith: Well, at the most general, just some comments from Secretary Rumsfeld on some of the issues which are within the reviews for which he has responsibility.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, since this seems to be a day for you agreeing in public with Secretary Powell, could you perhaps tell us whether you also have stopped referring to China as a "strategic competitor"?

Rumsfeld: I've been hearing about cat's paws and deputy sheriffs and all kinds of code words getting heaved up here (laughter). I don't recall using that phrase. I think you suggested that I had. I've heard the last administration talk about strategic partners, and then I've heard others say "strategic competitors". I've always, I think, characterized it as a relationship that is multi-faceted and is evolving. And I haven't put any Rumsfeldian code words on it (laughter).

Powell: I was just saying to the secretary, that's exactly the answer I gave when we were talking about this last night.

Rumsfeld: Are you trying to find some daylight between Colin and me? (laughter).

Powell: Yes.

Q: [inaudible]

Rumsfeld: Well, except for those few cases where Colin is still learning (laughter).

Downer: Moving right along -- Paul?

Q: From the American side, there has been reference to the three main bilateral alliances, with Japan, South Korea and Australia. Is there any advantage at all in seeking to achieve great coordination and greater oomph between these separate alliances, and if so, what would be the strategic purpose of that?

Powell: Interesting, we were talking about this subject earlier in the day, as to whether or not we might find ways of talking more in that kind of a forum. I don't think it would lead to any formal arrangement of the kind you suggest. But there might be a need for us to seek opportunities to come together and talk more often. So yes, we've talked about that, but not in the form of some formal kind of new organization. We just began speaking about that today.

Q: So that would be some sort of new formal dialogue?

Powell: Well, we don't know what it will be yet. It's just something that came up earlier today that, since we have such common interests, it might be wise to find ways to explore that on a more regular basis. But we have no forum for it yet.

Q: [inaudible]

Downer: As Colin says, this is something that we have discussed, we've also informally discussed with the Japanese as well. So as not to allow a hare to rush away here, we obviously -- I think it must be obvious -- wouldn't want sort of new architecture in East Asia which would be an attempt to kind of replicate NATO or something like that. We are talking here just about an informal dialogue and the question of whether we could do it at a more numerous level than two, that is, we obviously have a dialogue with the Japanese, the Japanese with the United States, the United States with us. Would there be a formulation where the United States and the Japanese, for example, might be able to sit down together -- not necessarily, by the way at ministerial level, but perhaps at a lower level -- to engage in some sort of dialogue. That is something that we've been talking about. I've spoken to the Japanese foreign minister, Mrs. Tanaka, about it as well, when I met with her recently in Hanoi. So it's really, at this stage, just an idea. I don't think too much should be interpreted.