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Q&A following meetings on the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Shield

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Australian Defense Minister, Robert Hill and Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer
July 07, 2004

            SEC. POWELL:  Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I’m very pleased to have welcomed to Washington today Minister Alexander Downer and Senator Robert Hill and their delegation members.  I’m also pleased to be joined by Secretary Rumsfeld, as we hosted the Australia-U.S. ministerial discussions.  This is the 16th “AUSMIN,” as they are called.  The first ministerial was held in Canberra in 1985.  And over the years, our relationship has continued to grow and deepen. 

 

We are working together for peace and security in the world in ways that could not have been imagined when these discussions first began.  But one constant has been the closeness of the relationship.  As close friends, we are open to each other and committed to the needs of both parties.  We had a very full agenda at today’s meeting. 

 

Our work together spans the globe.  We, of course, reviewed the situation in Iraq where U.S. and Australians or United States troops and Australians are working together with citizens of many other countries to help the new government with the tasks of stabilization and reconstruction.  We shared concerns about North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons in ways that we could cooperate with other countries to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  We discussed how we partner with other countries in the region to enhance the security of international shipping. 

 

Both Americans and Australians have been victims of terrorism.  We recall the September 11th attack and the Bali bombings with sadness.  We are determined to work to ensure that the citizens of our countries or any other countries should never again fall prey to such despicable acts.  For us, the war on terrorism is real and we will continue it to the end. 

 

As always as AUSMIN, there was a fair bit of give and take across the table.  Our Aussie friends don’t hesitate to tell us where they stand on the issues of the day.  We like it that way and it’s one of the strengths of the relationship and a primary reason why AUSMIN is such a useful discussion. 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, this has been a most enjoyable and productive day of conversations with good friends.  And I would ask my colleague, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to say a word.

 

DOWNER:  Thanks very much, Colin.  Well, can I just say that from our perspective, we are very pleased with the high quality and the breadth of today’s talks.  It’s been a great opportunity for us to sit down together on this.  You’ve heard from Secretary Powell talk about a wide range of issues and I think the fact that we’re able to talk in a frank way we can underlines the vitality, relevance, and the great contemporary value of the Australia - United States alliance, that it’s an alliance that has gone a very long way from its original foundations through to an alliance which focuses on the great security issues of our region, the problem with terrorism in southeast Asia, the difficulties on the Korean Peninsula, the broader security environment in Southeast and Northeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region and the South Pacific, but also through to the Middle East, where we are working together in Iraq.  And we had a substantial discussion about Iraq and welcome the new more positive phase in Iraq or recognizing that there’s a long way to go and still a lot of difficulties ahead. 

 

It won’t come as a surprise to any of you that are here that we reaffirm the fact that Australia is going to stay the course in Iraq.  We’re going to stick by the Iraqi interim government and help them achieve their objectives and help Iraq become a free nation.  This isn’t a time for a country like Australia to turn its back on the Iraqi people and cut and run. 

 

We welcome very much the progress that’s been made on counterterrorism in Southeast Asia.  The cooperation between Australia and the United States has been extremely important in countering terrorism in Southeast Asia and shouldn’t be underestimated.  We also had a good discussion about the proliferation security initiative dealing with the problem of particularly nuclear, but also chemical and biological proliferation and the excellent work that’s being done, much of it led by the United States in recent times to counterproliferation.  And I can only say that today’s talks again underline the tremendous value for Australia but also, I believe, for the United States in having such a close, intimate relationship and having such a strong alliance and I thank Colin and Don for hosting the meeting today.  It’s most enjoyable. 

 

            SEC. POWELL:  Don?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good afternoon.  This alliance between the United States and Australia is one that reaches back many generations now, including those grim early months in the Pacific after the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II.  Nonetheless, it’s an alliance and a relationship that has all the energy of a young relationship.  More recently, as Colin mentioned, both of our countries have suffered losses from terrorist attacks. 

 

Today we are moving ahead with several new initiatives.  We’ve signed a memorandum of understanding pledging to work together on developing system to defend our respective countries from missile attacks.  And the goal is to help ensure that our nations are able to deter and defend against countries that have access to ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. 

 

As part of the ongoing transformation of our armed forces, we’re also issuing a joint statement on interoperability and on the cooperative development of the joint combined training capability.  By creating a training environment in Australia to test and evaluate our forces in a wide range of scenarios, our countries should be better able to integrate our military capabilities to meet the challenges of the 21st century. 

 

I also want to say how appreciative the people of the United States are for the exceptional bravery and professionalism and skill of the Australian troops that are currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters in this global war on terror.

 

Senator Hill?

 

SEN. HILL:  Well, thank you.  I’d reinforce what’s been said by my colleagues.  The relationship is critically important to Australia, the U.S.-Australian relationship.  We think it’s as strong as it’s ever been.  We found ourselves working closely together in operations in recent years and have found that the relationship from a intergovernment perspective is reflected on the ground in a very close and meaningful way.  I reiterate what Mr. Rumsfeld has said about practical ways in which we can go forward and the decisions that we’ve made today in that regard.  Joint operations have meant we’ve learned a lot about interoperability, but we’ve also recognized where we can do better in that regard and we’re committed to further enhance our capabilities in terms of joint operations through a range of different interoperability initiatives.  

 

In relation to training which is, in many ways, part of the same concept, we realize that we can further enhance the training of the ADF through working more closely with the United States and taking advantage of some of the more sophisticated instrumented ranges and simulation.  And they, in turn, feel that they can take further advantage by using, when appropriate, some of our training facilities that will mean us enhancing a number of our ranges, in particular, the Shoalwater Bay training area in Queensland, the Delamere Air Range in the Northern Territory and also the new Bradshaw Range in the Northern Territory. And we intend these ranges to be ultimately interlinked and with, as I said, instrumentation and simulation, both of our forces can take opportunities to train together to the highest possible standard. 

 

And thirdly, in relation to ballistic missile defense for us that’s a long-term investment but we believe that we have a responsibility to address not only the threats of today, but the threats that we might face in the future.  And new technologies are now made possible - the ability to defend against incoming ballistic missiles, whether it’s defending troops on the ground or large areas.  And we think it’s important that Australia invest in those new technologies and we’ll be working with the United States to identify specific projects that we can work on together in order that we can make a contribution and that we can fully gain, as I said, from these new technologies. 

 

So I thank our colleagues from the United States.  I thank them for their hospitality today, but also for the way in which they personally engender a great deal to this relationship which is so important to Australia.

 

SEC. POWELL:  Thank you, Robert. 

 

UNKNOWN:  We have time for a few questions.  Let’s start with Mr. Schweid (sp), please?

 

Q:  Secretary Powell or Secretary Rumsfeld, on an instant situation, what could you tell us about the missing Marine?  Has he been in touch with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut?  Is he all right?  Is he a deserter?  What is his situation, please? 

 

SEC. POWELL:  We have received reports that he may be in contact with various individuals and there are other reports that he might be in Lebanon, but I can’t confirm any of these at this time.  And we’ll just have to wait and see. But I don’t think we have anything more to add to it at this point, Barry.

 

Q:  Thank you.

 

UNKNOWN:  OK.  Let’s go to the second row over there.

 

Q:  A question for Mr. Rumsfeld.  The administration gave the Australian government a commitment to investigate the allegations of abuse against David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, the two Australians in Guantanamo Bay.  What is being done with that investigation?  And on Guantanamo Bay, do you believe the rules of the military tribunals will now have to be changed, given the Supreme Court decision? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  The allegations will be looked into.  And I understand that possibly this morning the request, if not before, the request has been made for the details of the alleged abuse and that the department would in an appropriate time, as we have with any other allegation of abuse, see that there is an appropriate authority that would investigate it and make that investigation report available to the government of Australia. 

 

            Q:  [inaudible] tribunal?

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  That’s something the lawyers are reading those opinions and attempting to work their way through them and see what would be appropriate, given the range of views that were expressed there.  And it is very likely that there will be a mechanism that will be established and would have the effect of giving individuals an opportunity to be reviewed at an appropriate interval. 

 

            UNKNOWN:  OK.  Let’s go to Mr. Carl (sp) down here. 

 

            Q:  Secretary Rumsfeld, Prime Minister Allawi has announced his new security measures.  I’m wondering first, do you think they will be any more effective at dealing with the insurgency?  And secondly, if the U.S. military is asked by the Iraqis to help enforce what is effectively martial law, will we go along with it? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I think it’s not clear yet exactly what the announcement will mean in terms of its practical application in any one or more parts of that country or in any one or more circumstances that might evolve in that country.  So trying to answer a question as to whether or not what the United States or the Coalition, for that matter, the coalition role might or might not be is, I think, a bit ahead of the game.  In terms of will they be more effective, I would think so.  It seems to me that the fact that there is now an Iraqi government, that it is sovereign and they are making decisions and exercising their authorities, that that ought to be reassuring to the Iraqi people.  And one would think that at some point, the pressure from the Iraqi people against the repeated instances where innocent Iraqis, men, women and children are killed in the street or in restaurants or in car attacks, it seems to me that at a certain point, the Iraqi people will decide that they’re against that and that they will be supportive of the government and find opportunities to dissuade people from engaging in that kind of an insurgency and reporting those individuals that do and providing intelligence to the Iraqi government, so that their security forces can take appropriate action against people who are willing to do that type of thing. 

 

            UNKNOWN:  Go to the second row here.

 

            Q:  Mr. Powell, Mr. Barodi (sp?) [inaudible] was in Israel.  Was there any ideas from the United States on working to secure Israel there with the nuclear weapons?  And for Mr. Rumsfeld, was there at any time any Israeli investigators in Abu Ghraib or any other Iraqi prisons? 

 

            SEC. POWELL:  I’ve been in constant touch with Mr. [inaudible] on a number of issues in a number of issues, but had no conversations with him with respect to what his activities were going to be in Israel or what conversations he might have with Israeli authorities. 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You never know what you don’t know.  But we’ve checked, thus far, in any event nobody seems to have any knowledge of any individual in Abu Ghraib or other prisons from Israel. 

 

            UNKNOWN:  Let’s go back to the third row in the middle.

 

            Q:  Secretary Powell, do you have any reaction from the side of the U.S. government to the sudden death of Austrian President Thomas Klestil last night.  And do you plan to attend the state funeral in Vienna next Saturday?

 

            SEC. POWELL:  We were deeply saddened by the president’s death.  He was a good friend of the United States.   And we are now examining how to send an appropriate delegation to the state funeral.  We were saddened by his loss and have put out appropriate statements, as has the White House.  And we will announce a delegation, obviously, within the next day or so. 

 

            UNKNOWN:  I think we’ve got time for two more.  Let’s do Reuters down here.

 

            Q:   Secretary Powell, when you were in Russia earlier this year, you said that in Russia political power does not yet appear to be fully tethered to the law.  Looking at the Yukos case, do you think that the rule of law has been fairly applied here or do you think that politics has played an undue role in this prosecution? 

 

            SEC. POWELL:  I can’t answer that.  The case is still playing out.  And I think we’ll just have to wait and see it fully played out and see whether it met what we think are international standards of transparency, accountability and the rule of law.  But I’m not in a position to make judgments about what actions the Russian government is taking right now, concerning assets of Yukos.  And other actions are taken with respect to charges being brought against individuals who were associated with Yukos. 

 

            Q:  So far, has it unfolded the way you would like to have seen it? 

 

            SEC. POWELL:  I’m not a lawyer.   It has not unfolded completely.  And so therefore, I think it would be not appropriate for me to comment on a case that is ongoing and not yet resolved.  What I said earlier this year when I was in Moscow and I wrote in Izvestia and I still believe is an accurate reflection of the concerns that we have with respect to the democratic process in Russia. 

 

            UNKNOWN:  OK, let’s do the last one at the end of the second row.

 

            Q:  A question to Mr. Rumsfeld and Senator Hill.  On the joint training facilities, do you say how many troops you envisage using that, how much money the United States intends putting into these facilities, what sort of training you’re proposing and whether it involves any prepositioning of American military equipment in Australia?  Thank you. 

 

            SEN. HILL:  Today, we’ve agreed the concept.  We’ve indicated certain bases within Australia that will require upgrading to a standard that we would like to see for the future, but would be also useful to the United States in joint training.  We will now develop specific projects in relation to that upgrading which will go to both governments over the next few months.  We’re working, for example, in relation to Shoalwater Bay to have it appropriately instrumented by 2007 for the Talisman-Saber exercise, would even like to see a higher standard achieved for the ’05 exercise, but we’re giving ourselves that little bit of extra time. 

 

            In terms of the number of troops who will utilize such facilities, that’s obviously still out in the future and to be determined.  And as to whether there’ll be any U.S. training stocks in Australia associated with joint views of training bases in Australia, that’s still be to be determined, as well. 

 

            But as you would be aware, Singapore, for example, uses Australia’s training bases and maintains training stocks in Australia as an economic way in which to do business.  But the U.S. will determine what it needs in order to maximize the advantage it can get out of these training facilities.  And we would wish to be supportive because we believe it’s a useful contribution we can make in our joint interests. 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Nothing to add. 

 

UNKNOWN:  OK.  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.