Friday, February 21, 2014

Australian FM Julie Bishop: Ties with U.S.

Founded in March 2011, the Alliance 21 is a three year project geared towards identifying and creating plans to address the problems and possibilities that the US-Australian alliance does and may face. Alliance 21 is led by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and composed of “50 of the best strategic thinkers on both sides of the Pacific” who examine and advise on various pertinent topics. On January 22, 2014, the Alliance 21 conference on “Emerging Asia” was held. The foreign minister for Australia, Julie Bishop, gave the keynote address, which garnered the attention of the press due to her defense of intelligence gathering and sharp criticism of Edward Snowden.   
…[The US-Australian alliance] is an alliance based on trust. An alliance that is both dependable and dynamic. We're true friends who share common values, whose interests overwhelmingly align.
In this year, a century on from the commencement of the Great War of 1914-1918, we can reflect on the fact that over those 100 years the US and Australia have fought side-by-side in every major conflict in which either of us have been engaged.
Today I want to discuss why our Alliance remains vital – why it's vital for both our nations – how together our nations continue to create a brighter, more secure, free and prosperous future for our people and for our region.
The Alliance 21 project is conceiving of new ways that our alliance can build on our shared history to identify the challenges and opportunities that are ahead and to devise joint strategies to create our shared future…
And this project is part of that future-creating process.
The formal ANZUS alliance was signed in 1951 but its origins lie deeper in the past with the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries just months after the outbreak of the Second World War…
Now what I want to draw from this historic perspective is that seventy-five years or so ago, while much of the rest of the world was focused on the darkening clouds in Europe, we were focusing ourselves on the potential for a clash in the Asia-Pacific.
Today, we still walk that geopolitical line.
And 63 years on, the Australia – US alliance remains the cornerstone of our national security.
Of course, the relationship is now as broad as it is long-standing. For example, the United States remains our single most important economic partner. When you combine two-way trade and investment, it stands at over $1 trillion.
Australia and the United States remain the closest of partners in the Asia-Pacific, each of us making our own distinctive contribution, each with our own relationships with other countries in the region.
And since the Second World War, the US presence has been the essential stabilizer for regional security.
Vitally, it has underpinned the transformation in countries across the broader Indo-Pacific – from Japan, to Korea, to China.
But not just in Northeast Asia, across Southeast Asia – Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia.
And while our region is now more free, more secure and more prosperous than at any time in recent history, it faces new and difficult challenges.
Our alliance, born in war, must unquestionably be an alliance for peace.
And we should never be backward in protecting and promoting the regional benefits of this alliance.
In very contemporary terms, I want to focus on a couple of issues which are of vital, but by no means exclusive, importance in our relationship.
First, the Korean Peninsula and proliferation; Second, how features of our mutual engagement deepen our individual efforts in the region; Third, the continuing critical character of our intelligence collection; Fourth, our mutual struggle with the terrorist threat wherever it emerges;
And, finally, Afghanistan. I suggest that in respect of each it will be incumbent on us to use our collective ingenuity to develop alliance strategies. We must be adaptable and nimble in fashioning our responses.
North Korea has been a regional threat since the 1950s Korean War.
But Pyongyang's insistence on continuing tests over the years – nuclear and long-range rockets – and its active proliferation of sensitive technologies and equipment has seen North Korea emerge as a global threat to peace and security and the subject of seven United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Last February, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. By the end of the year we learned that the 31 year old leader, Kim Jong-un, had disposed of his uncle by firing squad – underlining the brutality of life in the Hermit Kingdom, but further emphasizing the unpredictability of this nuclear armed state.
Now as for Iran, the United States, with Secretary Kerry's strong advocacy, has made progress on the issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions, although Iran still has much to do to convince the world that it is no longer seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
In the case of Iran, it is more a point of "hope, but verify".
Amid the perennial challenges of the Middle East, including the ongoing struggle to find a resolution in the peace process, this progress in Iran is important.
But as a global community we didn't make headway on North Korea in 2013, and it remains no less dangerous and no less idiosyncratic.
The internal power struggle and the increased instability within the regime means it is even less likely that the Six Party Talks will recommence any time soon.
We cannot ignore North Korea, for we share deep concerns on the threat posed by nuclear proliferation and we must remain steadfast in our counter-proliferation efforts.
Together we must work hard to establish stronger global norms against nuclear proliferation, build stronger regional counter-proliferation capabilities, including through regular bilateral dialogue, and through the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network, which Australia chairs, and support for the International Atomic Energy Agency.
We need to not just maintain but step up the strength of our counter-proliferation efforts…
My second point on engagement in our region – the growing complexities of the power dynamics of North Asia were well and truly in play by late last year. In November China unilaterally declared an Air Defence Identification Zone over areas in the East China Sea. In December Japanese Prime Minister Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, bringing to the fore the unresolved tensions between China, Japan and South Korea. Such events escalate the already tense regional environment.
It is fair to say that our region, indeed the world, continues to feel the reverberation of China's rise.
Much of this, of course, is positive.
Australia, like the United States and other regional countries, has a great stake in China's growing prosperity and its ever-closer integration into the global economy.
Australia has a vital interest in this part of the world – a vital national interest – 40 percent of our two-way trade is with the 3 North Asia giants, 60 percent of our merchandise exports pass through the South China Sea to our key North Asian markets.
We recognise that regional prosperity and peace and security depend on constructive relations between China, Japan and South Korea.
And it's particularly important that our friends in Japan and South Korea, both, like Australia, allies of the United States, should overcome the current strains in their relationship.
Together we must encourage better relations between them, for a shared sense of strategic purpose between North Asia's leading democracies will be vital to the region's success in facing many of its challenges, particularly North Korea's belligerence.
We must also continue to build the regional architecture, and to strengthen the international rules-based order…
…it's vital that all major powers – the United States and Australia and China and Japan, South Korea and others engage actively and constructively in and through the East Asia Summit, which promotes a peaceful rules-based regional order.
The rebalance of United States foreign policy into the region is timely and we will play our part…
As a partner of the rebalance, we encourage the United States to continue to enhance its partnerships with Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Singapore, Vietnam, New Zealand and others.
Already, we've seen greater cooperation between the US Marine Corps, Indonesia and Australia…
Ladies and gentlemen, in June, a grave new challenge to our irreplaceable intelligence efforts arose from the actions of one Edward Snowden, who continues to shamefully betray his nation while skulking in Russia. This represents unprecedented treachery – he is no hero.
Snowden claims his actions were driven by a desire for transparency, but in fact they strike at the heart of the collaboration between those nations in world affairs that stand at the forefront of protecting human freedom.
It was an attempt to destroy the trust between those who are most supportive of and sympathetic to the security and influence of the United States in maintaining global peace and freedom – Australia has not been spared. And we are seeking to manage the impact on our relationships and with others targeted by the Snowden allegations as sensitively and sensibly as possible.
We welcome President Obama's speech last Friday on your signals intelligence reviews.
Our Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that he remains satisfied with the robust oversight and collection management arrangements that apply to Australia's intelligence services.
We believe that Australian intelligence agencies operate in a well-established oversight regime, which includes monitoring by the independent Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, and accountability to the Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security.
I am confident that intelligence cooperation will remain one of the core elements of our alliance in the 21st century.
But we must be prepared to make the public case for the importance of this work, because the safety and security of our citizens depends on it. As President Obama said last week:
"For our intelligence community to be effective over the long haul, we must maintain the trust of the American people, and people around the world."
For decades our agencies have provided intelligence to our Government that has helped us protect not only Australia's national interest, but also fulfill a critical component of our alliance – sharing intelligence on threats to national security.
One of the most important responsibilities of any government is protecting the safety and security of its people…
The collection of intelligence by responsible, democratic governments is not discretionary; it is an imperative in discharging this fundamental duty to protect the safety of their people. In short, it saves lives.
Of course intelligence agencies must be carefully monitored with appropriate oversight to ensure that the privacy and freedoms of citizens are protected.
And this leads to another joint challenge we face.
Early last year, al Qaeda emerged in Iraq and Syria reminding us that global terrorism, and the next generation of those who caused us to invoke the ANZUS Treaty for the first and only time on September 14 2001, remain a clear and present threat.
Obviously, the United States leads the global effort. Australia is a vigorous supporter of international counter-terrorism cooperation, as well as playing our part in specific regional action in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.
We particularly appreciate the critical role of the United States in galvanizing world-wide action against terrorism through the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, where Australia has been active as one of the Working Group co-chairs.
The fact remains that global terrorism is not receding. Thanks mainly to vigorous action by the United States, the central structure of al Qaeda has been heavily degraded – but this hasn't prevented various subsidiary and similarly-minded groups from pursuing al Qaeda's extremist and violent ideology in different parts of the world.
We are witnessing a particularly virulent form of this at present in the Middle East, where al Qaeda affiliates are waging an especially hateful form of violence against their perceived enemies across the region – in the Arabian Peninsula, in Somalia, and across North Africa – where they all pose continuing threats to citizens of their own countries and to resident foreigners alike.
It will be a long-term task of the whole international community to overcome these latest forms of violent extremism.
From counter-terrorism to counter-proliferation – Australia will work with the United States, as we are doing in Syria – supporting the elimination of its chemical weapons stockpiles, funding the humanitarian efforts with over 100 million Australian dollars in aid and attending Geneva II to help work on a political solution…
Finally, there's Afghanistan.
For Australia, our presence in Uruzgan concluded successfully last year, including winding up the Provincial Reconstruction Team, which consisted of US and Australian military and civilians working together under Australian leadership, another example of our effective bilateral cooperation.
Last year we also saw the first fighting season with the Afghan National Security Forces in the lead for security across the country – that was a significant step forward, after years of mentoring by the United States and Australian and other forces.
There is much to be done to prepare for the conclusion of the ISAF mission at the end of this year, including finalizing the post-2014 framework. This is an issue on which Australia has the lead in the United Nations Security Council and represents another example of vital US-Australian cooperation.
Certainty around the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement remains fundamental to laying the groundwork for the international community's post-2014 engagement – we have urged the Afghan Government to conclude this agreement as it will also set the parameters for our own engagement beyond the end of this year. I make it clear that provided there is an appropriate agreement in place, the Australian Government will continue with ongoing support.
By year's end our mutual and broadly-based commitment to the people of Afghanistan will move into a new phase. That will be a critical moment.
The Afghan people deserve a chance to secure their own peace, but we must be assured that this territory will never again be used to launch terrorist attacks…
In concluding…
Our longstanding Alliance, borne out of our joint sacrifices in the Pacific theatre of the Second World War, has faced its share of challenges.
And there will be no shortage of difficulties and uncertainties over the coming decades.
But we have:
our shared history, our common interests and values, our shared capability and adaptability to develop strategies, and we have the will and the resolve to make our alliance an indispensable instrument for regional stability, peace and prosperity.
Long may it remain.
Thank you.

Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister of Australia, “US-Australia: The Alliance in an Emerging Asia,” Alliance 21 Conference, Washington, D.C., 22 January 2014.  

--Alex Obregon

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