TRANSCRIPT: CHINA INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES – Q & A
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 6 JUNE 2012
TOPICS: Defence White Paper; US Force Posture; China.
QUESTION: White Paper – recently in this white paper there is a series of reports which says that in the future is there was a conflict in the South China Sea between China and USA, Australia would send submarine to cut off the transportation line for China.
However, when you were answering questions in the Australian parliament session and you said this was nonsense. And I also read that there were two versions – there was the public version and one was the secret version and I was wondering about the contents of the secret version and if you could give us some elaboration?
I have another question, Australian and the USA are partners and Australia’s relies on the military of the USA and also works very cooperatively with the USA. Everyone knows the purpose of the USA shifting its weight to the Pacific is really trying to contain China and Australia continues to participate in their strategies.
Another question - in your speech Minister, you mentioned that China is Australia’s largest trading partner and that Australia is also trying to work very closely with China in a trade relationship. On one hand Australia is very closely linked with the USA politically and militarily and also Australia and USA in this sense. Economically Australia is working very closely with China. Do you think this type of policy will sustain?
We have a saying in China which means that you have your two legs on two ships and also reminds me that Australia has put it’s bets on both sides and using that meaning if your two legs are on both ships and one travels faster and one travels slower, do you think there will be a risk?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well thank you very much for your question which has a number of important elements. Let me start with the 2009 Defence White Paper.
The 2009 Defence White Paper was not aimed at any one country – it was not aimed at China – nor will the 2013 Defence White Paper be aimed at any one country. And I am very happy to repeat here, as I have back in Australia, that any suggestions that there was a secret White Paper or a secret section of the White Paper are inaccurate and yes I described those suggestions in Australia as nonsense.
The 2009 White Paper dealt with, as the 2013 White Paper will deal with, how Australia responds to the shifting strategic influences that I referred to in my paper. And in this context we will focus on our national and national security interests, as any country does in the production of a Defence or National Security White Paper.
Secondly on so called containment. I don’t believe it is possible for a country or countries to contain another country of 1.3 billion people, whether it be China or India. So Australia doesn’t have a policy of so called containment. We have a policy of ensuring that through positive and constructive bilateral relationships, through dialogue and reliance upon regional architecture, that shifting strategic influences can be managed by the international community in a way which sees continued prosperity and stability.
Australia, as I said in my paper, believes that the presence of the United States in the Asia Pacific region, from the end, effectively, of the second world war, has been a presence for peace and stability, investment, trade and prosperity and we believe that this should continue.
I’ve sometimes seen references to Australia’s Alliance with the United States as being a so called Cold War Alliance, but this is not correct. Australia’s Alliance with the United States grew out of World War Two when Australia was under threat from invasion. So that Alliance has served Australia well, and served, in Australia’s view, our region well for over 60 years and for the last 40 years of that time, we’ve seen Australia and China develop a comprehensive economic and strategic relationship.
There is nothing inconsistent with Australia’s Alliance with the United States and Australia and China continuing to enhance its bilateral relationship, whether that is on the economic front, the strategic front, or, as I said in my paper, on the military to military or defence to defence front.
So, this in not, to use an Australian expression, a zero sum game, this can be win-win; an Alliance with the United States and a comprehensive relationship with China.
You refer to two ships travelling at different speeds. I don’t see this as a risk. What I do see as absolutely essential, is that the United States and China must have in this Century a positive and constructive bilateral relationship. That is very much at the heart of continuing stability, of continuing peace, continuing security, continuing prosperity and investment in this Century.
We see a very strong economic relationship between Australia and China but we see very strong, very close and very deep economic integration between China and the United States. What we need to see is the economic integration and economic relationship, matched by strategic integration.
So, what we don’t want to see is a strategic competition between the United States and China. Just as in due course, as India rises, we don’t want to see a strategic competition between India and China and the United States. As I said in my speech, very much at the heart of continued stability and prosperity in our part of the world are positive and constructive bilateral relationships on the one hand between China and the United States; on the other hand between China and India and India and the United States.
Occasionally I have seen the suggestion that somehow a country like Australia could be a bridge between the United States and China. Two great powers do not need a country with a population of less than 25 million people to be a bridge between them. That is a matter for them - and a positive constructive relationship between two such powers is essential for this Century.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for your excellent speech. And also thank you for covering almost everything, because you have been Foreign Minister, Defence Minister [indistinct]. I think it is understandable Australia is a very good friend to America for 60 years [indistinct].
I have one question, a thing I do not understand. For many, many years you have not allowed America to be on your land, but now this current government allow 2500 marines to station here [indistinct].
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, General, thank you very much for your question, and yes, I have had the great honour and privilege to be Foreign Minister, Trade Minister and Defence Minister for my country. And often I am asked about what is the difference between being Foreign Minister and Defence Minister to which I say, and again to use an Australian expression - with my tongue in my cheek - to be Defence Minister is like being Foreign Minister, it’s just that you have assets and capability.
But whether we are operating as Defence Ministers or as Foreign Ministers, our objective is to have peace and stability and security to enable economic prosperity and for our people from all of our nations to share in that prosperity.
Australia does not have United States military bases in Australia, this has been the case for some time. Australia does not propose to change that approach. So there are no United States military bases in Australia
But what we have had in the course of our 60 years of an Alliance is practical cooperation. So for a 60 year period we have seen exercises and visits, whether those visits are naval or air force assets. The legal basis for such exercises, for such visits, is a 1961 Status of Forces Agreement. So, the framework for marine rotation out of Darwin has been in existence for a long time.
So the presence of 250, and over a five or six year period, growing to 2500 marines doing training and exercises on a six month rotational basis is not correctly portrayed as a permanent presence or a United States military base. It is a natural extension of practical cooperation that has been there for a 60 year period.
And Australia does not see this as a cause of concern. On the contrary. Australia sees the ongoing presence of the United States in the Pacific as a force for peace and stability. And the capacity of Australia and the United States to do joint exercises with other countries in the region is also in our view a positive development, not a negative one.
So we are already, for example, in discussion with Indonesia about Australian, United States and Indonesian, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises. President Yudhoyono has said publically on a number of occasions that he sees firstly the prospect of China observing that exercise, but secondly he has also said in the longer term, he sees the potential for Australia, United States and China doing exercises themselves which I have welcomed positively and I do see potential for that in the future .
Less than ten days after Prime Minister Gillard and President Obama announced the rotational arrangement with the US marines Australian Defence Force personnel were in Sichuan Province with the PLA doing a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise. These things are not inconsistent.
QUESTION: I have a very simple question. I read a report in April this year which says USA and Australia would send troops to Guam or some other military bases I was wondering if this was true.
STEPHEN SMITH: There are no proposals, so far as Australia is concerned, to send Australian Defence Force or military personnel to Guam with the United States for any form of exercise or operation – other than exercises or Defence force exchange which we have done with the United States over a regular period of time including visits to Guam.
So whatever the reference in the report in April that you refer to, would not indicate any unusual or different activity other than the which Australia has been conducting with the United States officials over a period of time.