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U.S. State Department Perspective On The Australian Alliance

This is the text of remarks made by Richard N. Haass, Director of Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State.

The remarks were delivered at the conference “The U.S.-Australian Alliance in an East Asian Context” at the University of Sydney.

It is a pleasure to be here today, in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, to celebrate 50 years of a strong and enduring partnership between the United States and Australia. It is equally a pleasure to escape the stifling heat of a Washington summer, but I can assure you that my motives are mostly pure. Although the treaty itself is only 50-years-old (the same age as I will be in a month’s time and therefore to be considered still young and vibrant) the roots of the Alliance actually go back to the first World War when Australian troops led by Lt. General John Monash were joined by the U.S. 33rd National Guard Division at the battle of Le Hamel in France in the summer of 1918. Le Hamel was a successful engagement — a smashing success to be more precise — and a good omen for the future of the relationship.

We have fought together in two World Wars, in Korea and Vietnam and, more recently, in the Persian Gulf and Somalia. But, the Alliance is much more than a military relationship, and its significance extends well-beyond traditional security interests. The association that was forged by the necessities of war has since developed into an interdependent, mature and multi-faceted alliance embracing all aspects of our two societies.

The second half of the twentieth century represents perhaps the most explosive 50 years of change in the history of humanity. Socially, politically, and technologically the world of 2001 is vastly different from the world of 1951. But, the U.S.-Australia alliance remains as vital and as relevant as the day on which the ANZUS treaty was signed in San Francisco. Like all good partnerships, the U.S.-Australia Alliance has had to adapt to changing circumstances, and we are still working through the implications of two profound and historically-significant challenges: the end of the Cold War and the emergence of globalization.

I am confident that the Alliance will meet the challenge posed by a rapidly evolving international dynamic. This is in large part because our partnership is not based on narrow self-interest. Ours is a relationship based first-and-foremost on common values, on a shared understanding of right and wrong, and a shared vision for a future world that is safer, more prosperous, more democratic and more just. Our shared histories as immigrant nations with a frontier mentality strengthen the bonds between us, and support an optimistic world view that looks ahead and sees that all things are possible.

Having flown for 28 hours — make that 48 — to get here, it may seem strange to say that the United States and Australia share geography as well as values. We occupy convergent, if not identical, positions in that we have strong ties to both Asia and Europe. We both struggle against an unwillingness of some in this hemisphere to see us as not only powers in the Asia-Pacific, but also as Pacific nations. Some in this country have argued that Australia’s traditional alliances with the United States and other western countries are outdated, and that Australia should focus more on ties with Asia at the expense of these relationships. In the United States as well, there are voices insisting on a zero-sum tradeoff between our interests in Europe and Asia.

This is a false choice. Like the United States, Australia can look in more than one direction. Canberra can maintain its traditional alliances while also building stronger ties with its Asian neighbors. As an alliance partner, one of the great strengths that Australia brings to its relationship with the United States is its status as an Asian leader, with long experience and expertise in the key issues of the region. At the same time, we do not consider our relationship with Australia to be a “regional Alliance” in the narrowest sense. Rather, we see our two countries joined in a global partnership.

We are joined not only in defense and intelligence gathering, but in areas as diverse as combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, dealing with the worldwide problems of crime and corruption, combating international narcotics trafficking, and managing the risks posed by the proliferation of WMD and missile technologies.

The United States and Australia are part of the Umbrella Group on global climate change, and we are committed to working with you and other nations to address this serious problem in a sustainable and responsible fashion. We are working together to promote open trade, necessary for economic growth and desirable for promoting the rule of law within states and the reality of peace between them.

We are partners in peacekeeping, including most recently in East Timor where the efforts of the international community — under Australian leadership and with the United States in a support role — have paid real dividends in terms of stability and hope for the future of Asia’s newest country.

So ours, in a very real sense, is a global as well as a regional alliance.

That said, it is worth taking a close look at the challenges and opportunities of Asia in particular and considering, as our invitations instructed us to, the significance of the U.S.-Australian Alliance in an Asian context.

Asia entered the post-Cold War era notoriously weak in terms of regional institutional development. This is particularly true when compared to Europe — which at times seems in danger of becoming less a continent and more an endless committee meeting. But, Asia also has weaker regional institutions relative to the Americas, with their OAS, NAFTA and MERCOSUR. Africa too is more institutionally developed, drawing on the resources of the OAU and sub-regional organizations such as ECOWAS and the Southern African Development Community. ASEAN is an important grouping of states that has already made an important contribution to regional stability, but it has not yet lived up to its full potential. The United States would like to do more to engage with ASEAN not just as the “10,” but also as a unitary entity. This will mean working closely with the Secretariat in Jakarta and doing what we can to help develop the institutional capacities of ASEAN.

The ARF in particular is a frequently frustrating exercise in “convoy diplomacy” — always moving at the speed of the slowest member. A number of promising proposals have been put forward, however, to strengthen and focus the work of the ARF and make it more responsive to the needs of the region. Among these initiatives, the proposal to strengthen the role of the ARF chair is perhaps the most significant and far-reaching.

The ARF has played a useful role in promoting a code of conduct for the South China Sea. But, weak Asian institutions have proved to be of limited value in tackling some of the most serious problems or potential points of conflict in the region. These include the China/Taiwan dynamic, the Korean peninsula, instability in Indonesia, challenges to democratic governments in the South Pacific, and the Thai-Burma border region.

APEC, the most active of the region’s post-Cold War multilateral institutions, has been an important place for our two nations to push for free trade and investment as well as make clear our identities as integral members of the Asia-Pacific region. We appreciate the energetic role that Australia, one of the co-founders of APEC, has played in the organization. However, APEC seems to have lost its way and is in danger of descending into formalism. The upcoming meeting of our leaders in Shanghai represents an important opportunity for APEC to reassert its role as an engine of regional economic growth and as a laboratory for new ideas to feed into the WTO and the international financial institutions. Overall, Asia has been slow to make the transition to a post-Cold War world characterized by increasing institutionalization and regional cooperation.

The still unstable situation on the Korean Peninsula is itself one of the last Cold War artifacts, a dangerous relic of a dangerous time. The North Korean missile development and export programs exert a destabilizing influence not only in Asia, but around the world. The agreed framework, missile programs and the massive DPRK conventional force presence along the DMZ are three of the core issues that we intend to emphasize in discussions with the DPRK. Ultimately, of course, the key to stability on the Peninsula lies in promoting a process of reconciliation between the two Koreas. U.S. engagement with Pyongyang is intended to reinforce, not replace, the North-South dialogue track.

Japan is another staunch U.S. ally in Asia and a close friend of Australia’s as well. The ongoing debate among the Japanese regarding their role in the world is a welcome development. The current reassessment of limitations on Japanese participation in international peacekeeping operations is particularly significant. The Koizumi Administration’s evident commitment to pursuing real structural reform, including in the beleaguered banking sector, is also positive. A strong Japanese economy is good for Asia and good for the world and it will help Tokyo play a greater leadership role.

China is looking ahead to a period of potentially profound change, both in terms of the way it engages with the rest of the world and in terms of its domestic leadership. History tells us that managing the emergence of a major power is never easy. Beijing’s entry into the WTO will be a significant milestone on the road to China’s integration into the international system of finance and trade. The transparency and accountability that come with WTO membership have the potential to change not just Chinese business practices, but Chinese society and world view as well. Meanwhile, Beijing is preparing for a leadership change as important as any since the death of Mao Tse-tung.

This period of change may also create opportunities for real improvement in the cross-Strait dynamic. All concerned recognize that a military conflict between Beijing and Taipei would be disastrous for the region. The United States is committed to Taiwan’s security, but we believe that that security can best be assured through direct dialogue. As Secretary of State Powell said in his confirmation hearings in January: “Let all who doubt, from whatever perspective, be assured of one solid truth: We expect and demand a peaceful settlement, one acceptable to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

On balance, I believe it can be done. Patience, diplomacy, and market forces should position us on the path to negotiated compromise. In the meantime, President Bush has made clear that we will stand by Taiwan and provide for its defense needs in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act.

The U.S.-China relationship is still evolving. As President Bush has said, China is a strategic competitor. China is also a potential regional rival, but it is as well a trading partner willing to cooperate in areas where our strategic interests overlap. It is not inevitable that China becomes our implacable foe. Those who argue otherwise are simply wrong. The challenge before us is to maximize areas of agreement and work through those issues on which we disagree. The overall relationship is too important to hold hostage to any single issue. And, I believe that there are many on the Chinese side who believe this also.

In Southeast Asia, as you know all too well, the problems of Indonesia loom large. The political elite in Jakarta is paralyzed by the prospect of imminent impeachment proceedings against President Wahid. Meanwhile, the situation on Indonesia’s periphery — particularly in Aceh, but also in the Moluccas, Papua and recently Kalimantan — continues to be a serious concern. No matter who is President of Indonesia come August, Jakarta will have to come to grips with the problems on the periphery as political issues and not just as security problems. There is no military answer to the challenge posed by the GAM in Aceh or by separatists in Papua. Decentralization is a step in the right direction, but Jakarta will ultimately have to accommodate at least some provincial as well as district-level ambitions for self-government. Authorities in Jakarta will also need to make real progress on reforming the Indonesian military. A reformed TNI could be an important institution for promoting political cohesion in Indonesia.

However you look at it, the challenges ahead of us are daunting. But there are also opportunities to shape a better future for the region. The United States is committed to Asia and to our Alliance relationships in the Pacific. Our bilateral security alliances with Australia and others remain the cornerstone of continued security in the region.

There is also room for exploring new multilateral and collective security arrangements. In Southeast Asia and the neighborhood near Australia, the odds of any two nations going to war are decidedly low. The circumstances under which militaries are going to be asked to undertake operational tasks are more likely to be in situations other than war — non-combatant evacuations, humanitarian relief and disaster assistance, peacekeeping operations and anti-piracy activities. These responsibilities lend themselves to multilateral, coalition efforts. It makes sense that we practice for what we are most likely to do.

This process has already begun in Cobra Gold which now has a strong multilateral component involving military units from the United States, Australia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand in joint exercises. Other nations will be invited to observe. We hope that, at some point, China will be willing to participate in similar efforts.

These multilateral exercises do not require diluting our bilateral alliance relationships. The U.S.-Australia alliance is one of the strongest in the world and there will continue to be a role for strictly bilateral cooperation between our two countries.

For our part, we see Australia on our short list of important partners, and we will do all we can to keep it that way.

I believe that an alliance like ours — one predicated on mutual respect and shared values as well as shared interests — is flexible enough to adapt to a changing world and that it must do so if it is to serve our nations as impressively in the next 50 years as it has in the last 50.

Let me end where I began, after the battle of Le Hamel, when General Monash described the allied victory this way: “It was all over in 93 minutes — the perfection of teamwork.”

I cannot promise we’ll meet all the challenges facing us in Asia in 93 minutes, but I believe that we will meet them, and that we will continue to do so through “the perfection of teamwork.”

Thank you.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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