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Cohen to Promote U.S. Interests in Australia, East Asia

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 28, 1998 – Defense Secretary William Cohen departed here July 27 on a 10-day trip to Sydney, Australia; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Manila, Philippines.

The visit marks his return to Asia following a two-week, seven- nation visit in January and will give him the first opportunity to meet with new Indonesian President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie. He also will meet with recently elected Philippines President Joseph Erap Estrada, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and the defense ministers of all three countries. "The main theme [of Cohen's visit] is the importance of this area to the security of the United States and the importance of the United States to security of this area," a senior DoD official said July 21.

In Australia, Cohen and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will participate July 31 in the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations. AUSMIN is the key forum for bilateral consultations on foreign, defense and security policy. The two American leaders are expected to issue a joint security declaration July 31 with their Australian counterparts, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Ian McLachlan.

This year's meeting will involve an exchange of views and assessments on current issues and explore ways to advance regional peace and prosperity. McLachlan has called the U.S. presence central to underpinning security and stability in the Asia Pacific region. In a joint statement, McLachlan and Downer said the AUSMIN consultations "are not only extremely valuable for both parties but are indicative of the excellent state of that relationship."

The secretary's visit to Jakarta follows a number of recent trips there by high-level U.S. officials, including Albright; Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin; and Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The DoD official said Cohen's talks with Habibie and others will emphasize political reform and the importance of Indonesia as Asia's second most-populated country.

In Manila, Cohen likely will discuss Philippine Senate ratification of a January agreement that would expand military contacts between the United States and the Philippines. The DoD official said ratification should come this fall.

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