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Secretary Cohen and Minister Moore Joint Press Conference Darwin, Australia

Presenters: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Minister of Defense John Moore
September 29, 1999

Minister Moore: Secretary, can I welcome you to Darwin. It has been a great pleasure to have you in Australia, and I welcomed the opportunity of discussions with you in Cairns and on the plane coming over from Cairns to Darwin. It is a great pleasure both personally and from a national point of view to have you in Australia, particularly at this moment where the relationship is called into very great use indeed. Can I say that not only in the discussions we had in Cairns and coming over but also the discussions we had in the many months preceding that, we have canvassed a wide number of issues and at all times we've had great cooperation and understanding between the two nations and that is the sort of relationship Australia does have with America. In every case, we have understood your position and you have understood ours, and there has been great cooperation. I can't say how well I think the alliance works between the two nations. Your contribution to the United Nations forces in East Timor is welcomed not only by Australia but also by all the nations contributing. We from our standpoint are only too pleased to accept the invitation of the Secretary General to lead in this particular exercise, and I have been very pleased indeed in the way in which the Australian Defense force has met that challenge to be able to put together the coalition to date and to be able to deploy in the numbers the organization we've seen at this moment. So Bill, welcome to Australia, and I know you have a few words to say to everybody here. But I want to just reiterate how strong and how committed we are in Australia to the American alliance, and we appreciate your great support.

Secretary Cohen: John, thank you very much, and once again let me express our deep appreciation and gratitude to the Government of Australia for the leadership role that they have taken in dealing with the crisis in East Timor. As you just witnessed, I had a chance to visit with some of the troops, and the commanders of Operation Warden, and I am extremely impressed with their demonstration of commitment and excellence. We are already seeing some encouraging signs and progress as the Australian-commanded peacekeeping troops enter and the Indonesian militias leave. Order in fact is being established, humanitarian aid is starting to flow and refugees soon are going to be returning to rebuild their homes and their lives. None of this would have been possible without Australian leadership.

Tomorrow in Jakarta, I am going to stress that the Government of Indonesia has an obligation to allow the refugees from West Timor to return safely to East Timor without interference or harm from the militia.

Today, Minister Moore and I discussed the situation on the ground, the status of the international force and the U. S. participation and support. So far we have assigned some 260 people directly to INTERFET. They provide unique capabilities such as airborne reconnaissance, intelligence capabilities, secure telecommunications to support command and control, a civil military operation coordination center to integrate the military and humanitarian operations, logistics specialists, and heavy-lift transportation. In addition, we have two ships operating offshore able to provide helicopters and other support. In our meeting I advised my good friend Minister Moore that the United States is preparing to increase our participation in three ways.

First, we are committing four heavy lift CH-53 helicopters that are capable of carrying vehicles and other large payloads. These helicopters are going to operate from the deck of the USS BELLEAU WOOD. The ship is currently loading in Okinawa; it is going to arrive in the area of East Timor within a matter of days. Australia asked for heavy lift helicopter support and we are deploying BELLEAU WOOD, accordingly. It is an amphibious carrier and in the platform for those helicopters it has the space to provide maintenance and support.

Second we are deploying a special army communications team of about 130 people from Fort Huachuca, Arizona . They are going to arrive soon to set up a sophisticated, high-capacity network for voice and data communications. This will expand the command-and-control architecture the United States is providing and augmenting INTERFET's effectiveness. Members of the team are going to be deployed both in Dili and Darwin and they are going to arrive soon.

Third, we will supply additional planners. This planning, intelligence, command and control, heavy-lift helicopter support, are the major force multipliers that will greatly enhance the capability of the international force.

Australia and the United States have long been allies for peace and stability in Asia and the world at large, and our soldiers as all of you know have served together many times to make the world more secure. Stability, democracy, prosperity in Indonesia, are as important to the United States as they are to Australia, and a democratic stable and unified, prosperous Indonesia is important to Asia as a whole. There should be no doubt that the United States and Australia stand with the Indonesian people in their quest and struggle for democratic reform. The commitment of the Indonesian people to reform has been dramatic. Many people have lost their lives to promote democracy. We believe that Indonesia is going to succeed in taking its place as the world's third largest democracy with a government that reflects the will of the people, and democratic values such as accountability to the people and civilian control of the military. I would like to be very clear on this issue as John Moore just was. The alliance between the United States and Australia is unshakeable and we will continue to work together for stability and security. We have a great strategic partnership. We will move to strengthen that partnership in the months and years to come. Thank you.

Minister Moore: Bill, can I just before your questions, thank you for that extra contribution that the United States has made to the United Nations Force. That's a very valuable input indeed to the structure of the force that we are deploying in East Timor and that is very valued by us as a Government. Now, questions.

Q: Mr. Cohen, did the U.S. ever receive a formal request from Australia for ground troops in East Timor?

Secretary Cohen: No.

Q: Mr. Cohen, would you commit ground troops to East Timor?

Secretary Cohen: What we have indicated is that we would be able to help and support Australian leadership for the peacekeeping mission. I just outlined the ways in which we have granted that support. We will continue to work together in ways that we can be helpful but at this point we are in a support role. Australia is in the leadership role. Hopefully the countries throughout the ASEAN region, and this is something that's very important, all of the countries in ASEAN have an obligation to participate in this peacekeeping mission, both from forces and as well as finances. It is important to the stability of the region and they have an absolute responsibility to participate. We will be as supportive as we can, as I have indicated on many occasions, we are stretched very thin around the world, and I have seen some articles that have appeared in the Australian press that have tried to describe the United States as the world's policemen. We are not the world's policemen, and we do not seek to fulfil that role. What we do seek is to promote stability and democracy wherever we can and in whatever capacity we can and we are in a supportive role right now.

Q: What about Prime Minister Howard's comments as Australia assuming the role as deputies in the region?

Secretary Cohen: I don't believe Australia is the deputy of anyone or anything. Australia is a sovereign country and a regional power as such. It has taken a leadership role. We applaud that leadership role. We are supportive of Australia taking this role, and so they are not the deputy of the United States and I think that characterization really underestimates what Australia has done and will continue to do in the future.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you made it clear today that Indonesia faces political isolation and economic sanctions if it does not smartly move to control its military and move ahead with democracy. What concrete promises will you be looking for in Jakarta tomorrow?

Secretary Cohen: I will take the message to Indonesia, as I have indicated before, that they have an obligation to provide for the secure return of those who've been displaced and are now in West Timor and allow them to go back to East Timor. They have that obligation. They have an obligation to cooperate with the peaceful transition. The people of East Timor having voted for independence, they have an obligation to control the military, to make sure the military does not support the militias who've engaged in marauding activities and vicious assaults upon innocent civilians. And so all of that is an obligation of the Indonesian Government. And as I have indicated, I believe a failure to measure up to their responsibilities will result in political isolation and certainly some economic consequences that will flow from an abdication of that responsibility. I'll be looking not only for words, but to follow very closely to see whether they have the deeds to match the words.

Q: Mr. Secretary, are you disappointed that Asian countries are not taking the initiative to resolve the conflict in Indonesia, which is a neighboring country?

Secretary Cohen: Well, I believe that Australia is in Asia, and it is taking a leadership role. And I would hope that the other countries in the region would be eager to help and support Australia's taking that role.

Q: Mr. Secretary, is it not true that the United States values its relationship with Indonesia over Australia?

Secretary Cohen: That is not the case, over that of Australia. We certainly value Indonesia's role in the world. We think it's important that it proceed along the path to democracy. We have been supportive of that effort. We support the aspirations of the people of Indonesia. But our relationship with Australia certainly is strong, it is strategic, and it is one that will be committed in the future, so we do not place Indonesia's relationship over that of Australia.

Q: Mr. Secretary, aboard the BELLEAU WOOD, besides the four CH-53s, will there be any other equipment that could potentially be added to the operation, and also will there be any personnel that could be added, specifically any elements from the 31st MEU or any other units?

Secretary Cohen: At this point we will have basically the support elements for the helicopters only. There could be other types of equipment that could move onto the BELLEAU WOOD and can be used but I have not identified that yet.

Q: Mr. Secretary, how far do you believe the human rights inquiry the UN has announced should actually go into anything that may have happened in East Timor over the past few weeks?

Secretary Cohen: Well, I believe very firmly that the Indonesian Government has a responsibility itself to conduct its own inquiry, the military to conduct its inquiry into exactly what has taken place and what personnel took part in the commission of these atrocities. In addition to that, it is clear that the international community also wants to have an accountability and that Indonesia will hopefully cooperate in that regard as well. I think there should be an inquiry on the part of the Indonesian Government as well.

Q: You have suspended the cooperation with Indonesia in military fields. How long will this suspension remain and what do you expect from Indonesia to change your attitude? And I would like to hear from both gentlemen, if the assembly in Jakarta is not providing the acceptance of the referendum result, will you be together agreeing to anticipate Phase Three?

A: John, you haven't had a chance to say anything.

Minister Moore: Leave the hard ones to me. I heard the Treasurer did that. I think the best answer I can give you to that is that we anticipate that the Indonesian Parliament will vote for support to the outcome of the referendum. And we have based our plans on that, though if that fails to be the case we are still in a position there to carry out the United Nations request. We are there at the request of the United Nations. We're not there as Australia. This is a United Nations deployment and the response of the Indonesian Parliament is to the actions of the United Nations and events will play from that.

Secretary Cohen: With respect to the first part of your question--what does Indonesia have to do--they have to take action that will in fact indicate that the military is under and subordinate to civilian rule. They have to demonstrate that they are as concerned about abuses taking place within the military, as the international community is, that the people of Indonesia have demanded this, they have voted for and have dreams for democracy. No democracy really can flourish and survive unless there is full accountability, so we would expect that the military would have such an inquiry and run such an inquiry, that the government and the people would insist upon it. When we see that that is taking place, it is my hope that we can have a reestablishment of the military-to-military relationship that we have had in the past. We have valued that in the past, and we would like to see it reinstituted but it cannot be reinstituted until we see actions taken consistent with what these goals are.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can I ask, what is your understanding presently of the relationship between the militias and the Indonesian military?

A: I am not in a position to comment definitively in terms of what the relationship is but that's a matter of speculation at this point but to me at least the military has an obligation to inquire, investigate any allegation pertaining to participation on the part of its military officers or personnel in the militia groups, what support it has given, and to act accordingly. So I can't comment definitively but it's clear that these groups have had support from the outside and perhaps most directly from the military, but that's something that's got to wait for the inquiry to take place.

Q: Have you given the Indonesians a period of time to do the things you want? Are you going to give them three weeks? Two weeks?

A: Well, I'm not going to set any deadlines. I think it is in Indonesia's interest to measure up to these requirements as soon as possible. They have a great deal at stake. The Indonesian people want this to take place. I understand that there is an election underway and that may impede some of this for a few weeks but nonetheless, there is an obligation that the Indonesian people expect their government to respond to. So there is no specific timeline but I think sooner rather than later and as soon as it is feasible.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you have just had a meeting with the New Zealand Minister of Defense, Max Bradford. Would you tell me, sir, have you discussed with Mr. Bradford additional U.S. assistance for New Zealand forces taking part in this operation? What is the nature of that discussion, please?

Secretary Cohen: We did have a discussion, what we call a trilateral discussion. The basic information that was discussed was an assessment of what was taking place on the ground. What did current intelligence reveal, what was taking place as far as the flow of refugees coming back, what were the outstanding impediments to getting those refugees who were still displaced persons back, what would be required in the way of humanitarian assistance. It was basically a review of the situation on the ground. We did not discuss specifics in terms of what the United States would be doing other than what I've outlined here today.

Q: Do you see any evidence that the militias are mobilizing or preparing to launch attacks across the border from West Timor once the Indonesian military is out of East Timor?

Secretary Cohen: That is one of the apprehensions we have. That is one of the reasons I will be speaking to the various officials tomorrow to indicate that the Indonesian military has to really cooperate to prevent that from taking place. They should not be in any way complicit, they should not be cooperating covertly in any way to aid these militia groups to launch attacks against the East Timorese people. So that is something we are apprehensive about. We want to make sure we make it clear to the Indonesian Government that that is simply not acceptable.

Q: Will the U.S. be helping in the effort to rebuild East Timor?

Secretary Cohen: I am assured that we will try to be helpful in the reconstruction effort but I assume that, again, it is a regional challenge. I believe that there are many countries throughout the region that are going to be eager to help in the reconstruction effort, including Australia, specifically.

Q: (inaudible)

Secretary Cohen: We're going to keep our focus on the security and stability of the region. Right now the most pressing thing we can do is to help the people of East Timor rebuild their lives and secure their safety and their shelter. We also are committed to helping Indonesia pursue the path of democracy, so Indonesia's success is in our interests and the interests of all throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and so it is not a question of shifting our focus from one to the other. We want to keep our eyes focused on what is taking place in East Timor. We also want to keep our focus on Indonesia itself.

Minister Moore: I think we'll make it two more because there are people moving on, so last two questions. Geoffrey?

Q: Gentlemen, given your apprehensions about the situation from the west, and given that the UN mandate doesn't allow the force to operate beyond the borders of East Timor, have you discussed any contingencies for dealing with that apprehension beyond putting pressure on the Indonesian leadership when you visit Jakarta tomorrow?

Secretary Cohen: I think the principal role would be for the Indonesian Government to prevent that from taking place. That is the most important thing that they can do in helping to stabilize the region right now. There may be some discussions that we can have that, in terms of what happens if they don't do that, but right now the focus is on the Indonesian Government.

Minister Moore: One minor aspect Geoff is that there is the ability in Chapter 7 of "hot pursuit," a technical term. Yes, last one...

Q: Mr. Moore, why was your government giving the impression that a formal request for U.S. troops had been made, when in fact as we found out today one hadn't?

Minister Moore: Well, I am not at all aware that's the case. I can only say what the Prime Minister said in the House this afternoon, is it's totally correct that both he spoke to the President and I've spoken to the Secretary. We've had ongoing discussions on all sorts of matters, but the only formal request that was made to the United States for assistance has been met, and today it has been expanded and we are very pleased indeed for that expansion. The sort of assistance that America extended today is really not available around the world and that is the sort of stuff that makes these missions possible and we are very grateful, speaking on behalf of Australia, I'm sure on behalf of the United Nations force, for the specialist effort that the United States has put in this that a lot of other nations couldn't do. Thank you.

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