Rice IV With Greg Sheridan of The Australian
Interview With Greg Sheridan of The Australian
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
March 15, 2006
QUESTION: How important is the Australian-U.S. alliance to the U.S.?
SECRETARY RICE: The Australian-U.S. alliance is extremely important to the United States. It's one of our most important and most enduring alliances. It's important because we have economic ties, it's important because we have ties of friendship and values, and it's important because whenever there's been a need to defend freedom, throughout the decades, the United States and Australia have done it together. And so this is an extremely important relationship to us and one that we value greatly.
QUESTION: Would you say it's closer now than it's ever been?
SECRETARY RICE: It's very close now. It's close, in part, because I think the President and the Prime Minister have a very good personal relationship, as do Alexander Downer and I, but it's also close because friendships are strengthened in times of difficulty. It's easy to be a friend when times are not difficult.
But I'll never forget after September 11th, and Prime Minister Howard was actually in the United States when it happened, that Australia spearheaded the -- evoking alliances on behalf of the United States, quick to be with us in Afghanistan, one of the original liberators of Iraq, a stalwart in the war on terrorism, because that's a threat that we have both experienced, whether it was the bombing in Bali that killed so many Australians or September 11th. So, you know, in times of trouble and challenge, friendships tend to get either stronger or to break and this has gotten a lot stronger.
QUESTION: Yes. Madame Secretary, on another subject entirely, there's a bit of debate sometimes in this country about whether the U.S. is pursuing a policy of containment towards China. You outlined, in a positive way, the China policy of your Administration in your press conference. But can I just ask you, is it unfair to characterize the U.S. policy towards China as one of containment?
SECRETARY RICE: I come from the Cold War period and I was a Soviet specialist and so, containment has a very special meaning and I don't think we've ever used it in this context. What we're trying to do is to help create an environment in which -- with our friends like our Australia -- in which China is going to be a positive force. Now in order to do that, it is important to note that there is a Chinese military buildup about which people have a right to be concerned.
SECRETARY RICE: I think I read that the Chinese said they would decrease -- increase defense funding by some 14 percent. That's a lot.
SECRETARY RICE: And so everyone has, I think, an obligation and a right to ask what is the purpose of that, to be concerned about it. But it's also that the United States has had, with its friends, a lot of responsibility for the defense of the Pacific over the period since World War II. But we have an excellent relationship with China.
SECRETARY RICE: The President has been to China a couple of times. President Hu will visit the United States fairly soon. And so we have -- I think the United States has managed its relationship with China, recognizing that China is in transition. We've had our differences about human rights or religious freedom, but always in a respectful manner and it is not like the relationship with the Soviet Union.
QUESTION: So containment is just completely wrong.
SECRETARY RICE: I just think it's a phrase that suffice to take it to have a very special meaning, I wouldn't apply it here. I think what we're doing is, we're trying to have a policy that encourages a responsible, open and free-trading China.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'm jumping subjects very rapidly, I'm a very proud patriotic Australian, but I also love and admire the United States and I support your Administration, but I have to say I find myself in a minority in a lot of places that I visit around the world. Are you concerned about a rise of anti-Americanism in this last period of several years?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course, we would all prefer that it was not the case, but I certainly understand that the United States and President Bush, in particular, had to do some very difficult things in the face of the September 11th threat. It took courage on the part of the President to say that we were going to have to overthrow the Taliban and reduce the circumstances for a different kind of Afghanistan. It took courage to say that 17 or plus resolutions and sanctions that were, in fact, very tough on the Iraqi people, but it turns out, not so tough on the regime.
SECRETARY RICE: That it was time to deal with the threat of Saddam Hussein. It took courage to say that the Palestinians ought to have democratic elections and that Yasser Arafat was not really responsive to their needs. It took courage to say that the terrorists have to be confronted and confronted vigorously.
And so I understand that the United States has had to do some difficult things. I would only ask that the entire balance of American policy over the last several years be looked at. The United States has also increased official development assistance by 50 percent in this period of time: three times more to Africa; two times more to Latin American. The President has launched an emergency plan of $15 billion over five years to fight the pandemic of AIDS. The United States, of course, with friends like Australia, responded generously to the tsunami.
SECRETARY RICE: And if you go to Indonesia today, they talk about the impact of that aid. The United States responded vigorously to the earthquake in Pakistan where the Chinook helicopter is called an "angel of mercy."
SECRETARY RICE: If you look around the world, we've been, I think, compassionate in the effort to help those in need and we've been fierce defenders of the right of all people to live in freedom, not accepting what I fear was a somewhat deeply held view that perhaps there were peoples in the world that either weren't quite ready for freedom or didn't care about it. The President has really been insistent that everybody has to have that right.
QUESTION: Is there something in Islamic political culture, especially in the Middle East which makes it very paranoid about the United States, which doesn't accord recognition to that reality that you've just described?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I think there are many reasons for the suspicions in the Middle East. Part of it is that there are a lot of misconceptions about American policy, that the United States doesn't care about the people of Palestine, even though the President was the first to call, as a matter of policy, for a Palestinian state that somehow the United States doesn't respect Islam. Islam is the fastest-growing religious minority in the United States itself. Muslims live side by side with Christians and Jews and others on many street corners and many neighborhoods in the United States.
I do think that we were hurt by the 60 years of denying the absence of freedom or turning a blind eye to the absence of freedom in the Middle East where, for so many years, if the choice was between authoritarianism and stability on the one hand and democracy and a little bit of turbulence on the other, the United States could have been said to choose the former.
SECRETARY RICE: But we have set a different course now. And I believe that over time, the people of the Middle East will see that that is a course that is supportive in their aspirations.
QUESTION: Yes. Madame Secretary, if I could jump to yet another subject. The UN Minister Downer mentioned in your press conference the difficult relations between Japan and China at the moment. Most of the things China objects to, such as Japan seeking a seat on the United Nations Security Council, changing -- making its alliance with the U.S. reciprocal and so forth are policies which the U.S. and Australia support. Are you concerned about this Japan-China relationship and are you supportive of Foreign Minister Koizumi's foreign policy?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have been very supportive of and encouraging of the Japanese and the Chinese trying to improve their relations. Now to be sure, they have a lot of economic relations in common, a lot of trade, people travel. It's not all a bad story. But to the degree that there are tensions between China and Japan, we've encouraged them to work those tensions out, to show a desire to have respect for the -- each of them, which has their own place in the international system and to build on what is positive there. And so I'm a believer that within the context of this great Asian region, there is more than enough room for China and Japan and they definitely need to be on a positive path. And in some cases, we work cooperatively with both of them. For instance, in the six-party talks on North Korea, China and Japan are partners in trying to deal with the threat of proliferation.
STAFF: Time for one last question.
QUESTION: Okay. The emergence of Japan as a normal country, the Koizumi foreign policy initiatives, the change in the alliance, how do you feel generally about the Koizumi foreign policy?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've had a very, very good friend in Prime Minister Koizumi -- a really good friend. I think he's done remarkable things for Japan, if you would look at all the people who said reform wasn't possible in Japan. He's been a reformer. He's been a positive source for democracy around the world. Who would have thought of Japan deploying in Iraq or in Afghanistan and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and so it's been a very positive course. It's also important that Japan play a role that is consistent with Japan's constitution. In being a force for peace and stability in this region as well. And so we are supportive of those elements and -- but I do think that China and Japan could both benefit from more dialogue, more discussion of their differences. This is a region that still has some difficulties, some ghosts from the past.
SECRETARY RICE: And I would hope that over time those will be overcome. But no one should mistake that Japan is, of course, a democratic ally of the United States, a strong friend of the United States, and I'm looking forward to the strategic and trilateral that the minister, Minister Downer and Minister Aso and I will hold in a couple of days.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you very much, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. It's great to be with you.
Released on March 17, 2006