|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright,|
Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer, and Australian Minister for Defense Ian McLachlan
Joint Press Conference at the Conclusion of the Australia-U.S. Ministerial Talks, HMAS Watson, Sydney
Sydney, Australia, July 31, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
FOREIGN MINISTER DOWNER: Can I just begin by saying a few words of introduction then Iíll ask Secretary Albright to speak, then Minister McLachlan will, and Secretary Cohen. Weíve just completed a very full and productive day of discussions, and I have to say, we on the Australian side have very much appreciated the generosity of our American friends with their time and the quality of the discussion which was, we thought, extremely worthwhile.
AUSMIN (Australia - U.S. Ministerial) is, of course, a very valuable opportunity for Australia and the United States to compare notes, and it is, if you like, the ministerial meeting which forms part of the broader alliance relationship. As I said in introducing Secretary Albrightís lecture yesterday, the alliance relationship is as relevant today as itís ever been, and the cooperation between Australia and the United States, not just in the technical defense area, but also, on Asia-Pacific issues, is extremely close, and I must say, very productive from both of our perspectives.
During the course of our discussions here today, weíve looked at a range of issues, first of all the regional economic crisis, with a particular focus, obviously, on Indonesia -- the humanitarian and political dimensions of that, the importance of Japanís economy to the regional economy into recovery, and the stabilizing role of China. Weíve discussed the Cambodian elections. Weíve spent quite a bit of time talking about the very serious situation in Burma, and Secretary Albright will have a little more to say about that. Weíve also talked at some length about the South Asian nuclear tests -- the nuclear tests conducted recently by India and Pakistan, and more broadly had discussions about the international disarmament agenda. There have been a range of other bilateral and regional and global issues that weíve discussed.
As I said earlier today, Secretary Albright also repeated to me, and to my colleague Tim Fischer, the assurance she gave to the Prime Minister last night that the United States would make every effort to ensure that food aid assistance to Indonesia was effectively targeted, and not used to distort commercial trade. We did agree that our respective officials would meet up in Washington very soon. We havenít been able to fix a precise date yet, but we will do that, of course. But our respective officials will be able to meet and work out in greater detail how the aid relationship with Indonesia is going to develop without cutting across the commercial arrangements. Iíll leave it to Ian McLachlan and Secretary Cohen to say something about the military elements of the talks, but let me sum up by saying that this AUSMIN has shown, once again, that the Australia-U.S. partnership can deliver practical strategies and solutions to regional and global problems. Solutions which are more widely acceptable and successful than either of us could achieve alone.
Weíve been delighted to host our American colleagues at this 1998 AUSMIN meeting, and we look forward to going to Washington next year. I know the Americans look forward to coming back here in the year 2000. Theyíre hoping that AUSMIN can be on the day before the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympics. Madam Secretary over to you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much Mr. Minister. We are really delighted to be here in Sydney and to participate. Secretary Cohen and I are here for our first AUSMIN meeting. We had a very timely set of talks today -- perhaps the most important consultations the United States and Australia have had in some time, and thatís because we face challenges this year that are larger and more dramatic than in any year in recent memory.
Since the last time we met, this part of the world has seen tremendous political and economic upheaval from South Asia to Indonesia, to Korea and Japan. But if this is a time of uncertainty, itís by the same token a time of possibility. For itís possible that this region will emerge from the financial crisis more integrated, more democratic, more committed to policies that can assure stable and sustainable growth. We donít have to fear change, we need to steer it in the right direction and thatís the purpose of our alliance, and it was the purpose of our discussions today.
Secretary Cohen will describe our talks about the state of our military alliance which is strong and vital to all that we are trying to do together in this region and beyond. I just want to say a few words about our diplomatic cooperation.
We are, first of all, global partners, in a vast array of joint enterprises from the effort to stop climate change to the fight against proliferation. We discussed, today, our cooperation in the Persian Gulf, as well as our common effort to dissuade India and Pakistan from engaging in a nuclear arms race. I congratulated Australia for ratifying the CTBT, for its efforts to jump start the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty negotiations in Geneva, and for its contributions to the Korean Energy Development Organization.
But our discussions today focused more intensely on events in this region. We welcomed the formation of a new government in Japan, and we agreed to encourage to take strong action to stimulate its economy and to deal forthrightly with structural issues including bank reform that are an obstacle to growth. We reviewed our common response to the Asian financial crisis, reaffirmed our commitment to support IMF and World Bank programs in the region, as well as efforts to strengthen the social safety net in the countries hit hard. No nation has been hit harder than Indonesia, and we strongly support that countryís efforts to pursue economic reform while building a more just and democratic society.
I know there is concern here about Americaís decision to donate wheat to Indonesia, but the bottom-line is clear: Indonesia has extraordinary humanitarian needs today that must be met if it is to have any chance of emerging from this crisis as a stable, prosperous democracy. It is in the overriding interest of both our countries, Australia in particular, to meet those needs. The purpose of our aid is to put food on the table of Indonesian families who canít afford to buy it. This can be done in a way that does not distort commercial sales. In fact, it can hasten the day when Indonesia can stand on its own feet and start buying more food again. Weíve agreed to consult further about how to deliver food effectively into the hands of those who need it while avoiding disruption of commercial markets.
We also discussed events in Cambodia where Australia has played an important diplomatic role. We hope, although we donít yet know, that the results of the election will genuinely reflect the wishes of the Cambodian people, who yet again, have voted in huge numbers to state their views. What is clear is that democracy must continue to be built in that country, and that we must stay engaged until Cambodia observes democratic standards, not only on election day, but every day.
The escalating tensions in Burma were also high on our agenda. The more we learn about the recent stand-off the more clear it becomes that the Burmese Governmentís account of the incident was false. Far from being concerned about Aung San Suu Kyiís health, the government denied her food and clean water and spurned efforts by Australia, Japan, and others to resolve the situation through negotiation. As a result, Burma has moved further away from reconciliation and increased its isolation. Minister Downer and I were in touch with Secretary General Kofi Annan asking him to become personally involved in trying to resolve the situation. As I said in Manila, we believe that whatís going on there is an extremely dangerous situation, and our two nations agree that the members of the international community should work to encourage a dialogue inside Burma. We do believe that the UN needs to play a more vigorous role.
In all these areas that Iíve discussed, our discussions here were productive, our cooperation is strong, our partnership is enduring, and I look forward to an intensive period of practical cooperation ahead.
MINISTER McLACHLAN: Secretary Albright and Secretary Cohen, itís certainly a great pleasure to welcome you to Sydney. Could I simply say that in regard to Secretary Cohen, itís been an excellent working relationship that we have built over the last year or so, and our relationship has been exacerbated, or made more easy, by the fact that the Americansí openness has been never ending.
This AUSMIN reaffirms the vitality of the alliance, and itís been extremely easy to operate, as I said, with them. We have agreed on a number of important issues today but Iíll only raise two in the interest of time. The first is what used to be called interoperability, which is nearly unpronounceable to some (Laughter). As I found out, in fact, of course, we are trying to broaden that concept from the old concept of simply being able to work together on various operations to planning how we do it in the future. In other words setting down now and looking at how all this is going to happen between our two countries. That will take some time; it will be certainly in the high-tech areas. We will certainly be increasing personnel exchanges to SENTCOM and Atlantic Command. Because with our experience of recent times, although we operate extremely with Pacific Command because we practice with them, we have found that we need to broaden that for other potential coalition arrangements in the future.
So weíll be promoting training and educational exchanges in that field, increasing intelligence cooperation, and we will be introducing a new forum called the AUSMIN Defense Acquisitions Committee, which will greatly assist cooperation in the development of high-technology equipment. And all of this, is to try to plan what used to be called interoperability but now has a wider concept.
The other main subject we discussed, of course, was Southeast Asia -- well, the Asian problems in general -- but in particular South-East Asia and the willingness of South Asian nations since the financial crash, to accept more involvement by the American defense interests. Now, I am saying that cautiously, but nevertheless, we have discerned that to be true, the U.S. has discerned that to be true, and particularly, Iíll just report on Indonesia because whereas in the past there had been some reluctance on Indonesiaís part to accept involvement by Americans with too heavy a foot or hand, nowadays those things have changed. And that obviously works in our interest as well, because we have spent a very great part of the eight or ten years working very hard with Indonesia, and we concluded that in their latest strife they had handled that in a way that surprised not only Australia and the U.S., but the rest of the world. So that time that we have spent with Indonesia in the past has worked reasonably well, and we intend to do so with Indonesia and other nations in a more intensive way in the future.
SECRETARY COHEN: Minister Downer, Minister McLachlan, there is an expression I think youíre all familiar with: "Everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everyone has said it."(Laughter) So let me just offer a couple of brief points. I know that I speak for Secretary Albright when I say that this has been one of the most productive and enjoyable sessions that we have attended together. We have made it a practice to testify before various committees in Congress together, to make various public appearances together, but I must say this is one of the most enjoyable and again productive sessions that weíve ever had with any group. I agree with Ian McLachlan that is because we have a degree of openness and candor that we can share with our counterparts that is truly extraordinary.
A couple of quick points in terms of our military-to-military relations: they couldnít be stronger. We have a commonality of interests and values and commitments. When the United States determined that we had to confront Saddam Hussein in the Gulf, Australia was the first country to join us in the effort to prevent Saddam Hussein from threatening the UNSCOM inspectors. That says a great deal about Australiaís commitment to a goal that the world should share, and for the most part, does.
Secondly, we have a revolution in military affairs that the United States is currently undergoing. We intend to share that revolution in military affairs with Australia. It does little good for the United States to spend vast sums of money to develop these new technologies, and yet not be in a position to have our coalition allies share in the technology, the training, and the doctrine. And so, that is something that we discussed this afternoon.
And a third item that we took up in addition to the Defense Acquisitions Committee, is that of information assurance. As we are in the information age and we intend to see that it is even more accelerated in the future, we also understand there are great vulnerabilities. The more dependent we become upon information, the more vulnerable we become to outside or external attacks upon those systems. We are spending a great deal of our resources developing mechanisms to protect that information, and we intend to again share with our Australian friends and allies that effort.
Diplomacy backed by a strong military capability, I think, is the key to success. Itís rather unusual to see both ministers of defense and secretaries of state together in a particular conference, but it says something very important about our efforts. We have to have strong diplomacy, we have to have that diplomacy backed up by strong capable, creditable militaries. We have that with the United States and Australia and itís something that we intend to build upon in the future.
MINISTER DOWNER: Now if there are any questions we have time for eight, and we need to share them up between the Australians and the Americans. Over here.
QUESTION: Iíd like to ask about Burma. Madam Secretary, what specifically have you asked Kofi Annan to do? What was his response, and do you envision further steps to pressure the government? And to Secretary Downer, has it reached the point that Australia might join the United States in opposing sanctions on Burma?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that, we basically had an initial discussion with the Secretary General, telling him that we were very concerned about the fact that it was difficult for diplomats on the ground to be able to be involved in some of the negotiating processes, and that it would be useful for him to become personally involved in it. He was very interested in what we were telling him about, what we knew that had been going on on the ground, and he said that he was going to take a very careful look, and we will talk again with him. Heís on his way back to New York. So as soon as he gets there we will have further conversations. I think he joined our concern about the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi -- the handling of her -- was so inappropriate in terms of the way that one handles any citizen of a country, much less the leader of an opposition. He wanted to hear more from us about what we knew. So thatís where we were at that point.
MINISTER DOWNER: Well, I would only say that I thought our discussion with the Secretary General was very productive. I mean, he is very abreast of the problems, is very sensitive to the concerns. Our worry about Burma, over and above the human rights concerns we have, is the implications for broader security interests, not just internal security in Burma. But, that if the situation there is going to deteriorate, as we fear it might over the next few weeks, this has implications for so-called illegal people movements, refugee movements. I know already, that this is a concern of the Thai government and there is wide-spread concern in ASEAN, and of course, was part of the argument that we made to the Secretary General.
As far as sanctions are concerned, well, we havenít imposed sanctions on Burma, although weíve always said that we would reserve the option to do so. What we have said is that we want to maximize the pressure we can place on Burma, and of course, whether youíve imposed sanctions, or whether you havenít, whether youíve taken constructive engagement as the path, or taken the United Statesí path, or the EUís path, it is a fair debating point to say that none of those paths have achieved the results that we all want to see in Burma.
We have been and are still are, very focused, not only on working in cooperation with the United States, which we have done particularly in the last few days in Manila and here on Burma, but also on trying to activate the ASEAN countries to place greater pressure on their colleague -- Burma. And, I must say from my discussions with the ASEANs, and I think Madeleine youíd agree with this, that a lot of them, perhaps itís not a universal view, but a lot of them are very seized with the problems of Burma, are very concerned about those problems.
We are focusing a lot of our diplomacy on ASEAN, and we hope that through those channels, as well as through the initiative that weíve been pursuing today with the Secretary General, and through the bilateral things that countries like the United States and Australia do, that it will persuade the government in Burma to take the measures that it should take to develop a dialogue with the NLD, including with Aung San Suu Kyi, show greater respect for human rights, and move towards reforming their constitution.
One thing I said to the Burmese, and to the ASEANs in Manila, was that they should consider in Burma establishing their own national human rights commission of the kind that exists in Indonesia, so that human rights are more properly protected in Burma. And I have to say that the response to that was reasonably promising, so I hope that initiative can be taken forward. Next question. Need one from an Australian this time.
QUESTION: Geoffrey Barker, Australian Financial Review. My question is to Secretary Albright. What sort of quarantine, on the wheat issue, does the U.S. have in mind regarding wheat? How do you see it being put in place, so that it doesnít compromise the commercial wheat market? And to Minister Downer, what would be the minimum commitment that would satisfy you on this matter?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me, if I might, in the spirit of friendship and candor that characterizes this bilateral relationship, respond to that question in some detail. First of all I think that there is no question that the U.S. and Australia share a strong humanitarian concern about the problem of hunger in Indonesia. And this problem has now reached serious proportions and we believe that if it is not addressed, million of Indonesians will suffer and their countryís reforms and transition to democracy will be imperiled. And I think that it does in fact begin to create potential problems of disruption in the area with refugees and a whole host of issues in terms of social disquiet.
At a donors meeting earlier this week, the U.S. pledged to donate on a grant basis 500,000 tons of wheat to Indonesia, and this pledge was made after a careful assessment of the current needs, and takes into account our desire to avoid the disruption of the commercial markets. Our programs are intended to feed hungry people and we determined this amount after close consultation with our embassy and other parties in Jakarta, and after assessing the conclusions of teams sent to Indonesia to examine the food aid needs.
At the donors meeting we also indicated that we might be willing to donate more, perhaps up to another million tons, and this additional aid would be provided only if there is a clear humanitarian need and only if it can be effectively distributed and only if it is consistent with our food aid policy and obligations including our obligation to seek to ensure that the aid does not disrupt commercial markets. The program, like all the U.S. food aid programs, will be designed and implemented under the rules on surplus disposal of the Food and Agricultural Organization, and the U.S. is always prepared to consult with interested parties on its food aid programs.
As Iíve mentioned, we have agreed to an early meeting with Australia to talk about how to ensure that food aid to Indonesia gets to the people who truly need it and not in any way cause disruption of the commercial markets, and the results of these consultations will be carefully considered in determining the levels of food aid in Indonesia. I think we understand, if I didnít before I certainly do now, the level of angst about it here and we have been talking about it. I think we need to keep in mind our ultimate goal which is similar for both countries: that we do not want social disruption in Indonesia, and we will be working closely with the Australians to make sure that the commercial aspects of this are not disrupted.
MINISTER DOWNER: I donít have an enormous amount to add to that except to say that we obviously feel very strongly about the humanitarian problem in Indonesia. Youíre talking about somewhere between 80 and 100 million people falling below the absolute poverty line and around 20 million people in Indonesia suffering from severe food shortages which has implications for malnutrition.
We ourselves are in the process of distributing 40,000 tons of wheat to the World Food Program for Indonesia which in turn is to be converted by the World Food Program into rice for the Indonesian market. And we have said to the United States, we have said to the European Union, the Japanese and others, that it is crucially important to the stability of Indonesia that the humanitarian crisis of that country be addressed. But of course it is obvious also that we donít want the commercial markets, which are important to us as well as other countries, in Indonesia to be interfered with by development assistance, and in fact of course if development assistance is to cut across commercial markets, then it becomes dubious in terms of the title "development assistance."
And so through these talks, I mean I, you know we obviously have reached an agreement here, but through these talks at the official level, weíll be able to work out ways of quarantining the commercial markets. We obviously, between us, havenít worked out the mechanics of that, but that is something that the talks will be designed to do. And Iím confident that we can find a satisfactory way of allaying the concerns of the Australian farmers. At the same time we can contribute -- both of us -- to make the effort we are making to address the humanitarian crisis of Indonesia.
QUESTION: One question for Secretary Cohen, what (inaudible) for Australia and the United States with (inaudible) Asia Pacific related to New Zealand in terms of the security alliance. Iím just wondering, today former defense minister of New Zealand came out with a statement on how the nuclear propulsion argument in New Zealand is now outdated. Does this seem a favorable development for you. And then perhaps to Secretary Albright, the offering of carrying out, holding out sort of high tech linkages in terms of technology developments, the United States. Is that something that you could take into talks with Prime Minister Shipley tomorrow should there be any developments in terms of ANZUS?
SECRETARY COHEN: With respect to the question about the former defense minister of New Zealand, I think that is a very encouraging statement to the extent that he believes that the position taken by New Zealand in the past is now outdated. I would hope that the present Minister of Defense would share the same viewpoint, in that if that were the case then obviously that would be a very positive development.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Again I think Iím looking forward to some full talks with my counterparts in New Zealand about general ways to cooperate within a whole host of areas that are not specifically covered by the military aspects.
QUESTION: I have a question on the Cambodian elections to both Secretary Albright and Minister Downer. You said you discussed it. So far youíve sort of taken a wait and see attitude but everyday more results come in. The foreign observers seem to say that it looked like it was fair. Today, Hun Sen got the blessing of King Sihanouk. If it turns out that he won a democratic election, are you prepared to consider recommending restoration of the UN seat and aid, and if not whatís the time frame involved here? Madam Secretary, you talked about not only election day but beyond, so what exactly was that a reference to?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all I think that as Iíve now said a number of times, I think we should applaud the Cambodian people for having turned out again in record numbers for an election. We need to make sure that the count is complete and need to assess the fairness of it; and as I have said I think it is important to take it a step at a time. It will be a question as to how a government is formed, whether it has set itself up in way that is internationally acceptable. And I am not prepared yet to discuss whether, at what moment we will decide about the restoration of aid or the seat.
MINISTER DOWNER: Look, Iíd only say that likewise we feel it is a step by step approach. First of all we need to see once the vote is absolutely complete what the joint international observers group says and for our part our observers we have on the ground. There will subsequent to that, assuming that the report is a positive report -it remains to be seen - it would be a question about the formation of a government. For a government to be formed it has to have a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and at this stage it does not look as though, well it seems fairly certain that no party will have that. So there will be an interesting negotiation towards the formation of a government, which could raise a number of complex issues which Iím not going to canvas at this time either. So I think we are all in a holding pattern at the moment and waiting to see.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright and Minister Downer. Secretary Albright, weíve seen Congress decline to give new capital to the IMF, weíve seen fast track legislation endlessly postponed. Is it fair for outsiders to conclude that official Washington is not fully seized of the urgency and breadth of the Asian crisis and, compared to taking on new European commitments such as NATO enlargement, doesnít see Asia as the same priority as Europe for example. And Minister Downer, there were very well publicized differences between Australia and the U.S. over the content of the IMF packages. Is there now any light between U.S. and Australian positions on these issues?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that the Administration is fully aware of the depth and breadth of the Asian financial crisis, and when Secretary Cohen a little while ago said that we often appear together -- it is actually interestingly enough -- not just about NATO expansion but recently several times in order to argue the national security aspects of IMF funding. And I donít think you see that in too many countries where you have the minister of defense and the minister of foreign affairs together arguing for funding of an international financial institution. So the Administration is fully seized with the importance of this and we will continue to push for it. It is probably not appropriate for me to discuss our domestic political situation while we are abroad.
MINISTER DOWNER: Not being abroad, I could say that in this country, not to speak for the United States, but in this country there are people who donít understand that it is in our national interest to help Asia as best we possibly can through this economic crisis. There are such people. And it is incumbent on us and the Administration obviously feels that as well for their part, to explain to people that our countries both have a national interest in this economic crisis passing as quickly as possible and that the humanitarian fall out being as little as possible. As far as the IMF package is concerned I think now the current IMF package where there has just been a disbursement under that package is progressing reasonably successfully; there has been a rescheduling and a recalibration of the IMF package in recent times, and I feel much more comfortable about it than, I have to admit, I did in March of this year.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up question on Burma please. Secretary Albright, obviously you are very disturbed by the actions of the junta in Rangoon. Are you also worried somewhat by the tactics being exhibited by Aung San Suu Kyi, to the extent that her health seemed to be in question? But she seemed also very intent and very stubbornly wishing to hang tough in her vehicle and only returned to Rangoon against her will. She obviously intends to try to provoke another standoff. To the extent that her situation sometimes takes on the appearance of a type of a hunger strike, maybe a sophisticated type of a hunger strike, do you have any words of caution to her about whether it is constructive to provoke this type of situation again? And to Minister Downer, do you perceive any differences in the regime regarding such recommendations as a human rights commission or other signs that you find promising on the part of the junta. Are you convinced that just because one or two officials might have thought it was good idea that this is the idea of the whole group?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that I find Aung San Suu Kyi one of the most remarkable and bravest people that I have met in my public life and she, I think, has earned the respect of the people of Burma as well as of the world. When I was there after the Womens Conference in Beijing, I was quite interested actually in her quite conciliatory approach and her desire to have a dialogue and her non-confrontational way of dealing with the SLORC, as it was then known. And I think that the reason that she has taken stronger measures has been because she has not found any satisfaction in trying to work through a system where they would deal with her as a respected leader instead of either referring to her as they did when I was there, as a little sister who should mind -- should keep on shopping, or now, as they refer to her, as Mrs. Aris and act as if she were a foreign agent. I think that one cannot second-guess a freedom fighter and a Nobel laureate in her approach to the issue.
MINISTER DOWNER: On a national human rights commission I can only say that the response I got from Ohn Gyaw, the Foreign Minister, was mildly promising. Whether the military officials back in Rangoon would embrace though with enthusiasm such an idea is hard to say. It is perfectly possible they wouldnít of course, and therefore we are looking at other ways of promoting the idea including that I have mentioned it to the ASEAN, to our ASEAN dialogue partners. And I hope that ASEAN will take it up with Rangoon because, as Ohn Gyaw said to me himself, reform is moving ahead in Burma inch by inch, and you know it might be an overstatement but they were his words not mine. So it is all moving incredibly slowly.
QUESTION: I have a question for --
MINISTER DOWNER: And then we have one more question after that and we will have to move on.
QUESTION: I have a question for Secretary Cohen and perhaps Mr. McLachlan would like to respond as well. Not very long ago any discussion of Pacific and Asian security would inevitably involve a consideration of Chinese ambitions in the region and the possible threat of that. Now you talk of the Chinese being a force for stability in the region. Is the Chinese threat, if there ever was one, is that gone forever?
SECRETARY COHEN: I donít believe I would referred to China as a force for stability; I believe I have indicated that China is going to be a power in the future. It is a power today and it is likely to be a power in the future, in the 21st century. Our policy toward China is one of engagement, and we believe that itís in the overall interest of our country, and that of our allies in the entire region, for us to be constructively engaged in dialogue with China. But we also intend to maintain our strong bilateral relationships. We have a strong bilateral relationship with Australia, with Japan, that remains a key stabilizing relationship with the entire Asia-Pacific region. Weíre building upon our relationships with Singapore, with the Philippines, with Thailand, and so we do not see this as a zero sum game; that the U.S. relationship with China is improving, obviously, as a result of the Presidentís trip, that of Secretary Albright and others in the Cabinet; itís improving and we expect it to improve even further, but not at the expense of other relations.
MINISTER MCLACHLAN: Well, we agree absolutely with that, and the strong moves that the U.S. has made and Chinaís made to try to improve their relationship has been the most important, the most fundamental strategic and international political move thatís been made in the last decade, and weíve been encouraging that for as long as weíve been in government. Can I say from the point of view, our own bilateral arrangements with China, they have improved immeasurably since the Taiwan missile crisis in Ď96 and thereafter, during which time, the relationships were extremely cool, to put it mildly. And again, both sides have been trying hard to do that, and after the Chinese Defense Minister has been down here, the relationship was fine and I have been invited to go back there, and we have military to military relationships - at the beginning, but nevertheless going well.
QUESTION: Question to Secretary Albright, and also Minister Downer. The one discordant note in this otherwise happy gathering appears to be Australia expressing its disappointment over the failure of the United States to pay its bill to the United Nations. When do you think youíll be able to pay your bill in full and on time, and Mr. Downer, how much is this impeding the usefulness of that body. Considering that even now, over Burma, youíre appealing for its help?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I wish I could tell you. We have been - the Administration again, has been fighting very hard to get our UN arrears paid up. And again, if I might state, a rather unusual case, where the Secretary of Defense has joined the Secretary of State calling for the paying up of our UN bills for the same reason, because we consider it in our national interest.
MINISTER DOWNER: Well, youíre quite right. We very much do want the United States to pay its bills in the United Nations. The United Nations is an important component of Australia and the United States security policy. The United Nations Security Council obviously has a central role to play in the whole issue of Iraq, and UNSCOM. Just more recently weíve been talking about persuading India and Pakistan to sign up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which had its birth in the United Nations first in the Conference on Disarmament and subsequently in the United Nations General Assembly. And it does make it - and I donít mind saying this in front of the American Administration, and they probably donít mind me saying it, because their problem is with Congress - but it does make it more difficult for Americaís friends that the United States wonít pay its dues in the United Nations. And I think that Congress should help the Administration, and help American diplomacy internationally, by ensuring that it is possible for the United States to pay those bills.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Could I just add something to that? I think thereís all some misunderstanding. It isnít that we donít pay anything (laughter). Even when we donít pay our full share, we still pay a lot more than anybody else. And I do think that that part does need to be noted. We believe -- and when I was ambassador at the United Nations I made this point many times -- the United Nations does need to be reformed. It does need to take some action to make sure that budgets when put forward are actually carried out, and to operate in a more efficient way. So I do believe we need to pay our arrears. Itís very serious and we will argue for that, because we do believe in the United Nations. But I think that the record ought to show that the United States is not exactly a non-payer.
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