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Talks Strengthen Australia-U.S. Defense Ties

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

SYDNEY, Australia, Aug. 12, 1998 – Talks between U.S. and Australian defense and foreign policy leaders culminated July 31 with pledges to strengthen the security alliance between the two nations.

Joining Defense Secretary William Cohen at a press conference following the annual Australian Ministerial talks were Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Ian McLachlan. Although much of their talks focused on regional economic and political issues, they also discussed ways in which their armed forces can operate together more effectively.

Albright called the meeting "the most important consultations the United States and Australia have had in some time." "That's because we face challenges this year that are larger and more dramatic than any year in recent memory," she said.

Albright noted Asia's severe economic crisis, the recent nuclear weapons testing in India and Pakistan, and political turmoil in Burma as destabilizing influences. But although it's a time of uncertainty, she said, it also is a time of possibility. She praised the military alliance as "strong and vital to all that we are trying to do together in this region and beyond. We are the first of all global partners."

The talks produced a security agreement to further develop the ability of the Australian and U.S. armed forces to work together. This will include:

o Building a long-term partnership in the field of wide- area surveillance that involves airborne early warning and control aircraft and a new operational radar network.

o Sharing technology that enables the Australian military to contribute effectively to coalition operations.

o Retaining Australia's already strong working relationship with U.S. Pacific Command and developing new ones with the U.S. Central and Atlantic Commands.

o Increasing military education and training exchanges.

McLachlan said the leaders agreed to the assignment of Australian intelligence officers to the U.S. Space Command's Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The U.S. military is undergoing a "revolution in military affairs," Cohen said, referring to new and emerging defense technologies. As a result, he said, DoD runs the risk of outpacing its security partners technologically, making it difficult for combined operations to work effectively.

"It does little good for the United States to expend vast sums of money to develop these new technologies and yet not be in a position to have our coalition allies share in the technology, training and doctrine," he said. "We intend to share this revolution in military affairs with Australia."

DoD also will share with Australia new ways to protect information, Cohen said. "The more dependent we become upon information, the more vulnerable we become to outside attacks," he said. "We are spending a great deal of our resources developing mechanisms to protect that information, and we intend to share [that effort] with our Australian friends and allies."

Cohen said the joint meeting of foreign and defense policy leaders reflected the power of diplomacy backed by strong military capability. "It says something very important about our efforts," he said. "We have to have diplomacy backed up by strong, capable, credible militaries. We have that with the United States and Australia, and it's something we intend to build upon."

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