SOS Hillary Clinton and Australian FM Rudd
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SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, everyone. And let me warmly welcome a friend and colleague back to the State Department in his new capacity as foreign minister. I was delighted to hear of the prime minister’s appointment of Kevin and I look forward to continuing to work with him on the full range of important regional and global issues that both the United States and Australia are facing.
After all, our relationship with Australia is long and deep, and this is a continuation of the extraordinary partnership that we’ve had going back so many years between our countries. I’d also like to congratulate the prime minister at the outcome of the recent elections. These were exciting to look at from afar, and the orderly transition to a new government were powerful symbols of the democratic traditions that our two nations share. The common values that we are both committed to are the pillars of our historic alliance.
And I am delighted to announce that I will travel to Australia in November to participate in the Australia-U.S. ministerial. Secretary Gates and I will be meeting with our Australian counterparts, Ministers Rudd and Smith, for what will be the 25th anniversary of the first such meeting. This will be my first trip as Secretary of State because I had to cancel my prior trip due to the earthquake in Haiti, and I am so looking forward to returning to a country that I admire so greatly.
This morning, we had the opportunity to discuss a range of issues. I thanked the foreign minister for Australia’s continuing sacrifice and contributions in Afghanistan. We had a long discussion about the dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in Pakistan. The minister arrived here from Pakistan, where he surveyed the damage from the devastating floods. And he and I will both be attending a meeting about Pakistan at the beginning of the United Nations General Assembly week on Sunday night. What Australia has done in terms of its commitment to Pakistan is exemplary, and now we have to make sure that the money gets to the people and alleviates the suffering that they are experiencing and helps with the reconstruction.
There are so many matters that are of mutual interest, from developing new technologies for clean energy to addressing climate change, halting nuclear proliferation, countering the threat of terrorism, and so much else. So I am delighted to have renewed my partnership and friendship with Kevin.
FOREIGN MINISTER RUDD: Thanks very much, Hillary. Thank you very much for making me feel so welcome here at the State Department. I feel very much as if I am here among old friends. And we’ve known each other for a long time, and I look forward very much to working with you in my new capacity as foreign minister of Australia.
This alliance of ours between Australia and the United States goes back a long, long time. For us, it’s our oldest continuing alliance and we’ve been with you in the field in so many operations over so many decades that this is a relationship we take deeply seriously. It is a core part of the Australian national interest.
Of course, in the discussions we’ve just had, we began discussing recent developments in Pakistan. As the Secretary of State noted, I was there yesterday in the southern Punjab and also met with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and also with the Pakistan foreign minister, Minister Qureshi. The humanitarian situation in Pakistan is dire, and the Secretary of State and I will be attending a special donors conference on that in New York on Sunday.
My simple message to the rest of the international community is that this challenge has not gone away. The risk of waterborne diseases for the people of Pakistan is huge, and the possibility of epidemics still remains real. Therefore the challenge for us all is to remain focused on what’s happening in that country because of our common concern for our fellow members of the human family.
Also, strategically, the United States and Australia have deep and abiding interests in Pakistan, and it is therefore doubly important that we provide our ongoing support for the people and government of that country.
Afghanistan – Australia remains strong and robust in support for the United States in its mission and those of the other countries participating in ISAF in Afghanistan. This is not an easy conflict. It is a hard conflict. But we are resolved to stay the course with our friends and allies in the United States, and we will maintain a very close dialogue with the Administration on the future shape of our engagement there.
Within our region, very much we look forward to the participation of the United States in the East Asian Summit. This is an important institution for our region, and I look forward very much to discussing further with the United States and other members of the summit, Australia’s and the United States views on the future evolution of that institution. This is an important body in the future shape of our region in East Asia and the Pacific and, I believe, has a constructive and positive role to play for the future.
Finally, can I say how much we’re delighted to be in a position to welcome both the Defense Secretary and the Secretary of State to Australia on the 8th for the AUSMIN talks. This will be the 25th such occasion on which our two countries have met in that forum, and we intend to make it a really good time. (Laughter.) Not in the sense that you all think. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I’m not so sure about that. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER RUDD: We’re a very hospitable people. (Laughter.) And we believe that you can do some serious work and have a good time at the same time. But there is so much for us – Defense Minister Smith, myself, the Secretary of State, and Bob Gates – to discuss about our common interests for the year ahead. Now, this is an important forum for us. I believe it’s an important forum for the United States. And, Secretary, you will be made exceptionally welcome.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you so much, Kevin.
MR. CROWLEY: We have time for one question (inaudible) press side (inaudible) the AUSMIN people (inaudible) need to get up to the reception. (Laughter.) (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. We haven’t had a chance to ask you about the release of Sarah Shourd yet. I’d like to ask you, first, if you’ve had a chance to call the sultan to thank him and what the United States plans to do to get the other two hikers out if Oman can play a role in that. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Well, of course, we were very relieved that Sarah was released, very grateful for the help we received both from the Swiss, who are our representatives in Tehran, and from Oman, which played a very active role in reaching out and working with the Iranians. We are absolutely committed to the return of Josh and Shane. These two young men have been held without cause now for more than a year. It would be a very significant humanitarian gesture for the Iranians to release them as well.
So we continue reaching out to the many countries around the world who have supported us in our efforts on their behalf. I spoke with the parents of Josh and Shane yesterday and assured them that we remain as committed as ever to bringing their sons home. And I will be speaking with the sultan to express our appreciation at 11:00 a.m. this morning.
MR. CROWLEY: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Madam Secretary and Minister Rudd, a question to each of you. Madam Secretary, the whole region was struck by your commitment of the U.S. to the East Asia Summit. And I now ask you really, did that – did the Australian proposal for an Asia-Pacific community play into your thinking in making that decision, was China an important context, and do we see this as part of the wholesale renovation of the U.S. presence in Southeast Asia?
And Mr. Rudd, there’s been some talk in Australia recently that America needs to see its primacy in Asia and that Australia should talk it into a power-sharing arrangement with China. How do you feel about that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me respond by saying that the United States has been, is, and will remain a transpacific power. We are very fortunately located in the world so that we are both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. And one of my goals upon becoming Secretary of State was to reassert America’s role in the Pacific. So my very first trip was to our allies in Japan and Korea, to China, to Indonesia, where I committed that the United States would be more actively involved and that we would, for example, ratify participation in the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. So we are very committed to that.
I was influenced by Kevin Rudd’s very strong argument on behalf of an Asian-Pacific community. I think he was absolutely on point. We have a very strong Euro-Atlantic community and it has stood the test of time. Because of the growth in Asia and the many issues that are now having to be confronted by the nations there, we need a different architecture. So in addition to deepening our commitment to ASEAN, we began the process of exploring the opportunity for the United States to join the East Asia Summit. Australia, when Kevin was prime minister, now as foreign minister, was very supportive of that effort.
So I will be attending the East Asia Summit to be held at the end of October in Hanoi, and then President Obama will attend the next East Asia Summit to be held in Jakarta next year. So we certainly believed it was in America’s interests, but we were very encouraged by Australia’s understanding of the dynamics in the region and encouragement for us to become more involved in helping to create the architecture of the 21st century.
FOREIGN MINISTER RUDD: In terms of the question that you’ve asked me, the position of the Australian Government is that the strategic stability of East Asia and the Pacific remains anchored in the strategic presence of the United States of America. And furthermore, that is articulated, in part, through American alliance arrangements with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, and other security arrangements with other countries within the region. I think it’s very important for those who discuss these questions to understand that so much of the economic growth that we have seen in East Asia and the Pacific in the last 30 years has come off the back of the strategic stability afforded to the region by the United States presence.
The fact that economic growth can occur, and at such rapid levels and rates that we have seen in these recent decades, is because the problems of peace and security have not had to confront us on a grand scale. And that has been guaranteed so much by the presence of the United States. So the Australian Government remains committed to this position. We believe it is in the wider region’s interests that this continue to be the case. Of course, bodies such as the East Asian Summit, bodies such as APEC and other regional arrangements also play a key role in maintaining peace and stability and development in the region as well. From our point of view, the underpinnings lie still very much with the continued strategic presence of the United States. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.