John Moore/William Cohen Media Conference
HON. JOHN MOORE, MP Minister for Defence, Member for Ryan
HON. WILLIAM COHEN US Secretary of Defense
Maritime Headquarters, Sydney
JOHN MOORE: It's my great pleasure to meet Secretary Cohen once again to discuss a wide range of matters. This occurs on a fairly regular basic. It's a great pleasure indeed to have Secretary Cohen here in Sydney both last night and today. The nature of the discussions are always very frank. They covered a wide range of both areas of media interest to us such as East Timor, Indonesia and in particular Senator Cohen's recent visit to North Asia.
You've recently witnessed the signing of a Statement of Principles between the United States and Australia, that gives us very great access to technology and something which we have been seeking for some considerable time, in particular which relates to the submarines in Australia.
We have Senator Cohen to thank enormously for the efforts that he's put in to facilitate this agreement. There has been months of negotiations from the State Department and the Pentagon to make sure that this agreement gives us the access to the required levels of technology which is terribly important to Australia.
As you know the Australian Defence Force, by
the nature of its size is very technology minded and will
increasingly be so in the future and
hence the enormous importance of this, this morning. I welcome you Bill here today. I thought the discussions were very fruitful and I looked forward to renewing those in the future.
WILLIAM COHEN: Minister, thank you very much. This is my third trip to Australia during the past three years. And as always I'm delighted to be in the Olympic city of Sydney, glad to be meeting with my friend, John Moore, who I must say is in fine shape after a very long trek back from the United States.
But to be in a position to discuss concerns with a strong ally and an effective partner. The alliance between Australia and the United States is in fact the anchor to our policy in the Pacific Region and we share three important goals. To maintain piece and stability and to promote free trade and economic growth and to advance democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
In the last year we have faced challenges to these goals and Australia has taken the lead in meeting these challengers. And I want personally to take this opportunity to thank Australia for the effective, highly professional job that it's doing in East Timor for helping to protect and evacuate Americans in the Solomon Islands. That was very important and we truly appreciate your leadership John in that.
Next year Australia and the United States will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the ANZUS Pact and I am confident that our countries will work today over the next 50 years as they have over the past. I'm delighted to be here, delighted to have participated in signing of the Statement of Principles. And as you John have pointed out, this will be mutually beneficially that the United States does invest heavily in technology and our investment will certainly pay dividends in making it easier for us to share information, technology, and to make our relationship even strong. So without (inaudible) minister I'll wield the floor.
QUESTION: Minister/Secretary, Jim Manning from AMP. Could you tell us whether the United States is considering upgrading its defence relations with Indonesia, including possibly resuming arm sales?
COHEN: There have been reports that the United States has renewed arm sales to Indonesia, those reports are incorrect. What we have tried to do is to re-engage Indonesia on a military to military level to take it on a step by step basis to encourage Indonesian military officials and officers to share in conferences other types of academic institutions but to try to re-establish and re-engage Indonesia on a military level. But it's in the initial phases we now. We have not considered selling arms to Indonesia at this point.
QUESTION: To maintain its role as an effective ally in this region by how much should Australia increase it's defence spending in your view?
COHEN: It should increase its defence spending according to what it perceives to be its needs. Only Australia can make that determination. I believe it's important as your Prime Minister and Defence Minister have pointed out that there needs to be an increase in the future but that's up for the Australian people and the leadership to determine. Balancing its needs for domestic purposes and security purposes. But that's something I'm confident that the Australian leadership will do very successfully.
Minister, any suggestion?
MOORE: No, we don't canvas figures in these sort of meetings. I mean the Prime Minister, and myself as the Secretary have indicated a willingness and disposition to increase defence spending. But as the quantum you have to wait?
QUESTION: Bernard Logan, Sydney Morning Herald. What role could Australia play in your national missile defence system?
COHEN: First I should point out that there has been no decision made to go forward with the deployment of the national missile defence system. This is something that President Clinton will have to determine after he receives a full briefing and recommendation from me, the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor. So no decision has been made to go forward at this point. But obviously Australia has played an important role in terms of its early warning capabilities and I would expect that should a decision be made to go forward at some point that Australia will continue to play an important role in shared early warning so that that promotes stability throughout the Asia Pacific region as well as for the United States.
QUESTION: Mr Moore John Stackhouse here. You mentioned the way is clear for the technological input for the submarines and also I presume for the AW&C. Does this include access to source codes for vital programs?
MOORE: As I understand it, as I'm advised that the necessary clearances for the type of radar equipment that we wanted have been granted.
QUESTION: Mr Cohen, Paul Tate from Reuters. Two church groups in the last two days have called for international intervention into the Maluku Islands to stop escalating violence there. Would the United States accept or support an East Timor style intervention there?
COHEN: What we have indicated is that we believe that Australia is closer to the situation. That we will look for some leadership on the part of Australia in terms of formulating our own policies in the region. But we will coordinate very carefully in terms of what responses would be appropriate. But that's something that I think Australia must look at very carefully.
QUESTION: A follow up for Mr Moore. Has Australia considered such an action or what is Australia's position there at the moment?
MOORE: We haven't been asked to participate or to help any in any way in that area at all.
QUESTION: Who would have to ask you? MOORE: Well, the Indonesian Government for a start.
COHEN: And I should point out that the United States has not been asked to take any action and we would have to review the entire circumstances if we're considering participating in any way.
QUESTION: Bill Girts of the Washington Times. I'd like to ask the minister if he could comment on what his defence priorities are in terms of hardware. Is it new ships, aircraft, ground forces, all of the above. And if Mr Cohen could comment afterwards on the uranium missile test and how that fits in with missile defence issues.
MOORE: As it relates to our capital assets purchase I guess the heading is all of the above. But you have to wait until the white paper comes out at the end of the year in which we will outline our view of strategic necessities and realities in the region and what we do in relation to setting our capabilities to meet those perceived obligations.
In the green paper that's currently distributed for discussion you will notice in it there is some discussion on the types of capital assets we've got. But all answers will be provided in the white paper which will become available in November/December.
COHEN: With respect to the Shahab 3* test this has not come as a surprise. You may have no doubt noticed over the past several months during the course of many public presentations I have reported to Iran and the testing of the Shahab 3 and what I assume will be the testing of before and the future and beyond that is one of the reasons why it's important for the United States to undertake, to research, develop and potentially deploy an NMD system that would provide protection against countries such as Iran, posing a threat to the United States. So we have watched it very closely. This has not come as a surprise that they will continue to research test and develop and deploy the missiles in the future.
QUESTION: Jenny Levell, SBS TV. Mr Cohen have you asked Australia's support for NMD straight out and what was the response?
COHEN: There has been no request on the part of the United States to Australia at this point. What we have indicated is no decision has been made as of yet to deploy an NMD and so it would be premature for us to make such a request.
QUESTION: Mr Moore could I just ask for a follow up on that? If the US does go ahead with a national missile defence system, should Australia participate?
MOORE: We'll wait until a proposition comes to us from the American Government. As you heard the Secretary just say there has been no decision made by them yet. That's some distance down the road. Once that's made the appropriate channel would be discussed with the Australian Government, when that does occur we'll respond.
QUESTION: I'm (inaudible) a Japanese newspaper, so my question is about mine best, US mine best in Okinawa* and I heard that there is some opinion that US might best move from Okinawa to Australia. What do you think of these opinions?
COHEN: I am not aware of these opinions and I believe that the United States and Japan agree that the United States should maintain a presence in Okinawa and we look forward to continuing their presence subject to the agreement of the Japanese Government obviously. But we intend to maintain a large presence throughout the Asia/Pacific Region of roughly 100,000 personnel. We have done so in the past, we look forward to doing so in the future as part of our engagement strategy. So we foresee that continuing.
MOORE: Once again, as I said to the last answer it hasn't become an issue, we haven't been asked to take these trips there. Currently I should point out that Australians and various elements of the American Defence Force do exercise together in north Australia. There are a number of exercises taken by aerial bombardment included and marines exercising the north.
QUESTION: John Stackhouse again. You're quoted in The Sunday program yesterday as saying that Australian participation in NMD is going to be - the quote- that was used was radar. I understood that and this is from defence releases here that the more likely participation including the new dam at Pine Gap is for the SBIRS. Is there anything you're able to say to that at all?
COHEN: I think that basically to leave it as I have indicated that Australia plays an important role in early warning and that we would expect and hope that would continue in the future certainly if there is a NMD program.
QUESTION: Kirsty Alfredson from News.com.au. It's a question for the Defence Minister. John Moore, what has been the impact on a Collins Class Submarine as a consequence of this agreement, any?
MOORE: Kirsty, the Collins Class Submarine, I think everybody in Australia seems to have an opinion on it. But there is absolutely no doubt that the way ahead for the Collins Class Submarine when I came to this position was totally clouded. As a consequence of discussions with the American Navy with the American administration and particularly with the secretary, we were able to use both our testing tanks and other technology to find out firstly the answer to the question of the noise, and more particularly a question about the combat system.
As you will know we're now moving to acquire the outstanding shares held by the Swedish company that's been in the process of being sold to the German engineering company. When that's completed we'll then be proposing to on sell those shares to the Australian interests. What has occurred today in the Statement of Principles, is that it does widen the area of cooperation and I think that that in itself will completely see the way clear for the six Collins subs to be fully operational and very important items in the Australian Defence Force.
QUESTION: If I could ask a follow up. How important is it for Australia to have a viable submarine fleet? Is it important to pass on those secrets?
COHEN: I think it's very important, obviously to the extent that Australia think it's important, we think it's important as well and have been quite willing to be helpful in this matter. For Australia to have this capability we think is very important.
QUESTION: Why do you think that Iran chose this particular moment to test that missile? Do you think that it had anything to do with the Middle East peace process?
COHEN: I really can't speculate as to what motivation prompted the Iranian's who tested it this time. They've tried to test it in the past. The past tests were not successful. This represents a continuation of their testing program, whether it was scheduled to coincide with the discussions in Washington is a matter only the Iranian's can determine, we don't have any information pertaining to that. We accept it for what it is, we know that they will continue to test it. They will continue to develop a longer range missile capability and that's one of the reasons why it's important that the United States continue its research and testing and development program for the NMD precisely to deal with countries such as North Korea, Iran, Iraq and others.
QUESTION: Do you think that the fact that they tested it at this point in the NMD debate makes you more likely to lean towards -
COHEN: It doesn't change anything. We have discussed this in the past. We believe that North Korea, Iran, potentially Iraq in the future and others will develop long range missile capability. This has not come as a surprise. This is something that I have talked about at length to our European allies, to the Russians and others, that this what we anticipate. This confirms our participation. And so this is a factor that will have to be taken into account in terms of what the timeframe will be, when Iran would have a capability of striking US territory or that of European nations. So it doesn't change anything it just simply confirms what we've been saying.
QUESTION: Mr Moore have you discussed the Fijian crisis and the possibility of sanctions?
MOORE: We discussed the Fijian crisis in relation to the whole of the South Pacific. Not a particular issue in itself. The question of sanctions relates to the Australian Government decision and that will come from the Foreign Minister in due course.
QUESTION: Mr Moore, Jenny Levell, SBS TV. The Statement of Principles, could you elaborate a bit more about what it actually is. You've said better access to US technology. Could you explain what that's going to mean and how much it's going to cost?
MOORE: Well, the Statement of Principles outlines the way in which we can cooperate with the United States in the advancement of technology over the coming years. Now, because of the nature of the Australian Defence Force we are relatively small in size so therefore we're very dependent on good technology. We must invest in the best. It's pretty clear to me that the United States who spend something in the order of 30 times more than we spent on defence and have the best technology. And if we can leverage from their work it will be highly beneficial to the Australian Defence Force. The Statement of Principles gives us the ability to do that.
I'm particularly pleased, as I've said before, for the work that the Secretary put into this because it is very much his personal effort behind it. In the future years we will gain enormous benefit from it, enormous benefit. In the past there have been certain areas which just frankly have not been available, full stop. In the future we will be able access that which makes a lot of things possible.
MOORE: I don't want to get into the specific areas but just take the submarines position for a start. We are able there to access areas which were in terms of the combat system which may not have been available otherwise but there are a lot of areas which I don't want to go into.
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