Hotel Inter-Continental, Sydney — 30 July 1998
William Cohen, welcome to “Lateline” and indeed to Australia. Secretary Albright, I know you’ve just come in from PNG, which sadly is the latest disaster area in the region. Does this highlight do you think yet again, that I suppose the different nature now of what defense and foreign affairs analysts have to contend with. It’s not so much the military threat these days, but the threat can be environmental, financial?
That’s a very good example of what we all are facing in terms of environmental threat. Here, these people who have tried very hard I think to create a country where there are very rich resources and has great opportunity for tourism, and all of a sudden they’re overwhelmed by tidal wave. But it also shows the ability of the international community to cooperate, to help. When I met with Prime Minster Skate, he was discussing that there really had been good cooperation and he is creating a much more coordinated mechanism for receiving the cooperation, and establishing transparency and accountability so that people know really know where their assistance is going.
Can I just add one point? It does point out that we indeed need to be quite different in the how we approach problems. It is not only an environmental tragedy and human catastrophe, but also how our militaries are able to operate in that kind of environment to provide humanitarian relief.
But I guess it means that scenario planning of the traditional kind only gets you so far these days doesn’t it?
It means that you have to have a military that is completely flexible and be able to deal with humanitarian types of missions as well as the sort of traditional, conventional mission such as protecting against aggression on the part of Saddam Hussein, preparing for any type of aggression on the Korean peninsula. So you have to have a full range of capabilities and so our military is able to provide this kind of humanitarian relief as well.
I know Secretary you said in some of your previous speeches, you quoted a former U.S. Secretary of State, John Hay, saying the Mediterranean is the ocean of the past, the Atlantic is the ocean of the present, and the Pacific the ocean of the future. One would have to say though at the moment that future doesn’t really look all that assured does it?
Well, the countries in the Asia Pacific region are undergoing some economic stresses right now. But that region still has two-thirds of the world’s population. It still has many of the world’s national resources. It still is of great importance to the future, and so the economic difficulties have to be managed, but that does not diminish the significance of the Pacific itself.
Secretary Albright, when it comes to the alliance between Australia and the United States, what kind of a Pacific is it in our interest to try and help build?
Well, I think we have the same interests – which is basically a Pacific that has stable democracies within it, where there are open markets, where there is the possibility of trade that benefits all the parties involved, and an ability, I think, for there to be an understanding that we’re moving in a common direction to deal with trade problems, environmental problems and that we are increasingly integrated with each other. I’ve just come from an ASEAN meeting in Manila where Foreign Minister Downer and I were very much on the same page in terms of looking at how to deal with the financial crisis. Very concerned about the social safety net in the various countries, and also we were very concerned about something kind of on the periphery of the countries, but not in our minds, and that was the explosions in India and Pakistan, which were part of the agenda. So, we are all concerned about very similar issues.
Except that our approach hasn’t always coincided. For instance, as you would know, a point of distinction has been how Australia feels about the particular blunt application of IMF policies in Indonesia.
As I understand it, there had been some early disagreements on how that IMF policy should be carried out, but I do think that in our meetings now with the Indonesian officials there is a sense that it is moving in the right direction, and that support for economic and political reform is essential and that there needs to be movement forward. We are also concerned about how food distribution takes place in Indonesia because there is a great deal; half the population there is under the level of poverty — that’s a hundred million people. And the food distribution problem is a great one, and we don’t want unrest to come as a result of a lack of food. We have now, President Clinton has determined that 500,000 tons of food be delivered to Indonesia and then another million in tranches, so as not to cause concern to Australia which is that the markets themselves be disrupted. So, while we’re providing the food, we are concerned — are being careful to address Australia’s concerns on this subject.
It is still an immensely fragile situation there. Let me just ask you though, if – back to May of this year: if events had gone otherwise, if perhaps President Suharto had not exited as he did, if perhaps we had seen a collapse in Indonesia, what would the U.S. have done?
Well, you are asking the hypothetical – but what would have happened?
It’s a question we are all seriously considering in this part of the world.
But we don’t have to deal with that issue now because President Suharto stepped down. President Habibie is now in place. They have elections scheduled for next spring. We are working with them as best we can, certainly at the economic level and financial level, but also maintaining some military-to-military contacts to encourage the military to exercise the kind of restraint that is going to be necessary in these times of stress. And I think that General Wiranto and others have done that to date. But it is something that we feel very strongly about that very strong consideration has to be given for the protection of human rights and to make sure that there is no abuse of military power against the Indonesian people. So we are working with them and hopefully will not have to face that issue of “what if”. So far, it seems to be a democratic process underway with the hope that it can be achieved successfully with new elections and the people have an opportunity to express their will.
But as you would be aware, I suppose the concern in this part of world, when it looks to the United States these days, it sees yes, tremendous military might in the region, but perhaps a diminishing, I suppose, domestic consensus in the United States about international involvement.
I disagree with that. There is a strong consensus for internationalism. Secretary Albright and I have been to Capitol Hill on a number of occasions. We’ve made joint appearances together, and we testified together before the Senate Armed Services Committee. We testified together before the Foreign Relations Committee. We’ve testified together before the House Banking Committee. We have maintained a very strong partnership in promoting the international interests of the United States. Secretary Albright was in the forefront of urging an enlargement or expansion of NATO, and she was successful in that regard. That would tend to show that the United States is not looking inward, but looking outward. So I would disagree with those assessments that the United States is somehow shrinking back. We are very much forward-engaged diplomatically and militarily.
Secretary Albright. How do you read the congressional thinking?
I think that, for the most part, members of Congress understand the importance of us moving forward internationally. I think that there are constraints that we are concerned about now in terms of the numbers of sanctions resolutions, because I have felt that it’s very hard for the executive branch to carry out an act of foreign policy where there are so many sanctions. And Secretary Cohen and others of us are working with members of Congress actually — some of whom will also feel that way in order try not to have a — when you can’t think of anything else, put on a sanction, so...
In fact, is it the least effective form of diplomacy?
Well, I think it turns out that unilateral sanctions certainly are not — may give temporary gratification, but don’t solve the problem. Multilateral sanctions are something else, and I think that where the international community is able to act together as it did in South Africa or as we are doing on Iraq and Libya, I think those do work. But I think what we are working on all of us together, is to allow the executive branch to have the ability to carry out its policy with flexibility. We also frankly do need more money for our foreign policy. But I think the trend of the American people is to understand our international involvement. Before I left for this trip I stopped in San Francisco and met not only with business leaders but with a large group of people that were interested in how the United States viewed the Pacific, the importance of trade to the United States, does the financial crisis affect us. So, it’s impossible for the American people to be isolated from what’s going on in the world. And so, I think you’ll find the American people are very much — where Secretary Cohen said, and there are obviously a few people in Congress who feel differently — but we think that the American people understand fully that we need to be involved.
Could I bring you back to question of the Australian-American alliance again. If it is to have new meaning I suppose in the post Cold-war era, what sorts of things do you think it should be focusing on?
Well, as far as the defense issues are concerned, we are trying to help Australia and the United States move into the 21st century as far as how we modernize our forces. We have what we call a revolution in military affairs. We are proceeding with implementing and deploying new technologies. We want to make sure that Australia and the United States are able to work together in a collaborative fashion, and so we hope to create a defense acquisition committee to make sure that Australian officials are able to see what we are doing. We can work together so that there is no technology gap. This is something that would be very important as we continue to function together in the future. Australia has been a very strong ally over the years; we want to make sure we can continue to work together in a very collaborative fashion.
Can that technology gap be bridged because you’re working on extraordinary things, things like knowledge-based warfare, aren’t you?
Exactly. And that’s precisely the reason why we are going to have a greater collaboration, and cooperation, so that we can work together and both have access to this kind of information so that Australia can take advantage of this as well, not only in terms of technology — with systems like the F-22 fighter aircraft or the joint strike fighter aircraft — but also seeing ways in which this new technology can be implemented and deployed and the new doctrinal changes that had to be made so that our forces know how to employ this technology in the most effective fashion. So that’s going to be something that we are going to work on very closely.
So our future joint operations won’t be a matter of us sending off an old battleship to help, will they? That’s the old world isn’t it?
Right. Well we can’t have one country have all of the technology and the means of implementing it and have another partner, as such, be stuck with legacy technology or old technology and old policies. So we are going to work together to build upon the strong relationship we have, one of the most important we have in the entire Asia Pacific region.
To go back to some of the points that were touched on in Manila, is there, do you think, also a joint role perhaps for the United States and Australia to help with, what I suppose will be a new economic order after there has been some sort of stability re-infused into the region?
I wouldn’t tag at anything yet but I do think that there is a great deal that can be done together. We already — again I think we’re speaking in very similar ways about the necessity for openness in the economies’ market systems, accountability, anticorruption, a whole host of factors that we all kind of do on a normal basis that need to be inculcated into the other countries. Trying to make sure that investment climates in these countries are such that outside investors feel comfortable – banking regulations, commercial codes. I think also we’ve been interested in working on things such as labor codes together through the International Labor Organization.
I find that where we do a great deal together with Australia is in peacekeeping operations — when I was in the United Nations, the very great cooperation between our two delegations. Australia has been a leader on issues of nonproliferation, what in getting the NPT extension and the CTBT. And we continue to work with Australia very closely on those kinds of issues; also on issues such as drugs, trafficking in women and children and environmental issues – we are going to do a lot of talking about climate change, what happened at Kyoto. So I think that the basis of this relationship is because our values are so similar and because we see the 21st century in such similar terms with a whole host of different kinds of foreign policy issues that were not normally on the plates of foreign ministers before.
You mentioned there investment capital. That has to be one of the big issues now for the region, how to get it back in because we saw a massive, I suppose we saw a lack of caution initially which brought all this speculative capital into the region and now it’s gone just as quickly.
You have to have a stable environment. This is one thing that is very clear, historically, that business certainly follows the flag and it also follows a stable economic environment and social environment as well. To the extent that there is stability, that will attract investment. If investment comes in, there is a chance for generating prosperity which enhances democracy which then promotes greater stability. So this is something that we are all committed to try to promote – greater stability and, as Secretary Albright mentioned, greater democratic values, certainly, throughout the region.
So would you say in the case of Indonesia, it’s a question of get the politics right first? And you would say…
Get the economics right first so that you can have a stable social environment. If the economy starts to come back and people feel secure that they are going to be well fed and have an opportunity for prosperity in the future, that will tend to stabilize the situation so that investors will feel comfortable in coming back in to a country that has a rule of law and not the law of rule, that has an open transparent type of investment opportunity. And to the extent that we can promote that, then we can promote more stability.
Was it disappointing in Manila that in fact I suppose the Thai proposal for reinvigorating ASEAN was not taken up with a bit more gusto. I think the Thais were talking about greater peer scrutiny, more public debate about some of these problematic areas.
What I found, you know we don’t sit when ASEAN meets by itself, we meet in the regional forum where we’re then affiliated with them. But, there is no question in my mind that the Thai proposal was one that resonated. I think that it may take a while for it to work its way through. What was very interesting — last year, when I mentioned the problems of Burma, I was supported by Australia, but not by countries that were Asian countries, ASEAN members. And this year we actually talked about Burma with the Thais being very forthcoming, the Koreans getting involved in that. I think that there began to be a greater discussion and I think that as the ASEAN countries feel, as they are taking new members on that have come with a slightly different background they may have to open themselves up to this kind of internal discussion.
But the inclusion of Burma in that group really hasn’t influenced much in Burma, we are seeing this dreadful impasse at the moment with Aung San Suu Kyi.
Which is a point that I made there. But I think that they are more involved in what is going on in Burma than they had been before and more able to listen to the kinds of points that I was making and then being supported actually by Thailand and Korea within these discussions was an innovation. I think it will take a while to find out what the effect of it was.
Could I turn to India and Pakistan now because again this was raised in Manila – the question of their recent nuclear testing. We’re obviously in a much more dangerous climate now, aren’t we, with this nuclear adventurism?
We are, and it is something both India and Pakistan have really moved in a way that cuts against the trend that was evolving. Namely, we had a number of countries that simply forswore any intent to develop nuclear weapons: South Africa, Brazil, others that were very much in the elimination of nuclear weapons, Kazakhstan, we have Ukraine and others. So, it cuts against the grain of where the world was going. And it does present a problem. And that is why we have been very actively engaged in trying to persuade both the Indians and the Pakistanis to stop further testing, to sign on to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to agree not to transfer any nuclear technology to other countries, to lower the rhetoric and try to find ways in which they can resolve their dispute over Kashmir. So we are engaged diplomatically in a very intensive way to try and bring about those results, but in the event that that fails then there is the risk that this technology will flow into other countries. There may be a temptation on the part of a number of countries to say the threshold has been lowered; if it’s good enough for India and Pakistan why isn’t it good enough for us. And so you have a proliferation of nuclear technology and weaponry that will place greater strains upon international stability.
And in fact we can’t really rule out an exchange can we, even if by accident, because their command and control systems are not what defense officials might be a bit more comfortable with?
That’s one of the more troubling aspects about this. Neither country really has good information on what the other is doing, or having an ability to monitor effectively what the other is doing. And so you could find an increase in tensions and preemptive action taken by one or the other. And that is the reason why this escalation up this nuclear ladder is very, very dangerous and the reason why Secretary Albright and myself, our respective departments, are working as hard as we can to try to find a way to resolve the tensions and to persuade both countries to cease and desist any further all types of testing and certainly any transfer of this kind of technology.
In the time we have left I would just like to turn to China and I suppose you are the classicist, the historian in this gathering. How do you see I suppose the re-emergence of China in the next century?
I think it is very clear — I would defer to Secretary Albright who has just returned with the President from China — but China is a power. It’s going to emerge as a major player in the international scene in the coming century. The real challenge for all of us is to be sure that we adopt the kinds of policies that will encourage China to abide by international norms of good behavior and we do that by engagement. That is the reason why President Clinton went to China; Secretary Albright was there with him. It came under great criticism I might say from a number of different sources, but it was the right thing to do. I think enormous progress was made with China. We will take this relationship step by step. Now there are bound to be areas of some contention in the future but we believe that by engaging China we have the best opportunity to help China move into the next century in a way that will be beneficial to all of our countries.
Secretary Albright, I suppose a major question has to be what would happen in the event of any adventurism in relation to Taiwan. Hong Kong is already back in the fold – perhaps Macau then Taiwan. And that would raise very difficult questions for the United States wouldn’t it?
Absolutely. We have a relationship with Taiwan through the Taiwan Relations Act, and what we want is for there to be a peaceful resolution of this issue, which we make quite clear. I find that our engagement with the Chinese is something that is very beneficial. They were also just at this meeting in Manila and we were able to follow up on issues such as dealing with India and Pakistan as you had mentioned earlier. They were very helpful, as members of the Permanent Five, in the initial condemnation of these tests and helped to set out the guidelines of what we are looking for now as far as those two countries are concerned. They also, I think, understand clearly that we will never have a totally normal relationship with them until they work out their human rights issues and it was a subject that I raised again with Foreign Minister Tang in Manila as well as the problem of Tibet. We want to see the Taiwan issue resolved in a peaceful way and there is some evidence that some talks are beginning again on that subject. The Chinese know our views on this, the President made it very clear that our China policy has not changed and we will pursue that.
But as Secretary Cohen says I think that we have to look at how we deal with a country of 1.2 billion people. And it would be irresponsible of us not to seek a variety of ways to engage with them while not endorsing everything that they do and make sure that they become a part of the international system. They have systematically joined a variety of these nonproliferation regimes that we care about, and are bringing their weapons of mass destruction under the control of the international system, which I think is really the pay off for having them be a part of the system.
My final question would be the other major power concerned about all of this of course is Japan. Can China’s rise be anything other than at the expense of Japan?
The answer is yes. There is some notion that this has to be a sort of zero sum game: if President Clinton goes to China what does that mean with respect to our relationship with Japan or with Australia or you name the country. The fact is that we can have a strong and good relationship with China but that does not in any way undermine the very strong bilateral relationship we have with Japan. That is going to be fundamental to helping maintain stability throughout the Asia Pacific region. So our relationship with Japan is going to continue. We’ve updated our guidelines; Secretary Albright and I last year were in New York signing the new revised guidelines in terms of defining our relationship between the United States and Japan. We are hoping the Japanese leadership will move as quickly as possible to get the legislation necessary to implement that but we have…
Don’t we all.
We want to see that move as quickly as possible. But we have a solid relationship with Japan and that is not going to change in terms of our relationship with China.
On that note, thank you both very much indeed. Secretary Cohen, Secretary Albright, thank you very much for joining us.
Last update: Tuesday, 23 February 2010 GMT+1100