Subject: USGOV: Secretary Powell-Foreign Minister Downer Press Briefing

[excerpts]

Transcript: Secretary Powell-Foreign Minister Downer Press Briefing (Discuss trade agreement, regional security, missile defense) (2740)

...

Powell rejected a reporter's characterization of Australia as "America's deputy sheriff" in the Asia-Pacific region.

"The United States, as a Pacific nation, looks to the west and begins to deal with the challenges that we find there, whether it's in North Korea or in China or in Vietnam or elsewhere, we begin with the strong relations we have in the region -- with Japan, with South Korea -- and no relation is stronger than that with which we have with Australia," he said.

Powell said he was impressed with the way the Australian Government and the Australian armed forces responded to the situation in East Timor. "They have done a terrific job out there," he said. "But that doesn't make them deputy sheriff to anybody; it makes them an important player in the region that is living up to the responsibilities and the challenges of the region."

Following is a transcript of the press availability:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman

March 22, 2001

JOINT PRESS AVAILABILITY WITH THE HONORABLE ALEXANDER DOWNER, M.P., MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF AUSTRALIA AND SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL

Benjamin Franklin Room Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a great pleasure for me to have hosted today the Foreign Minister of Australia, Mr. Alexander Downer. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Australian federation and the 50th anniversary of our treaty alliance, a treaty alliance that has served both nations in the cause of peace in that part of the world so very, very well.

Australia is our oldest and closest ally in the Asia Pacific region. Our armed forces have fought on the same side in every war since World War I. The ties between our nations remain close and very, very extensive. It was in this spirit of longstanding US-Australian friendship that I met today with the Foreign Minister.

...

DOWNER ...

We have also had an opportunity to talk about a lot of the Asia Pacific regional issues, about Indonesia, about China, about Korea, and so on. And I must say I am very impressed with the great interest that the new Administration is showing in the Asia Pacific region. The role of the United States in the region is absolutely vital to the region's stability and prosperity, and we continue to encourage with great enthusiasm the active engagement of the United States in the region.

Q: I wonder if you might expand on comments you made in your confirmation hearings about the importance of Australia, when you spoke about the importance of Australia from a US perspective. There has been a suggestion that in some sense Australia is America's deputy sheriff in the region. And I'd like to get Australia's Foreign Minister to respond as well, please.

SECRETARY POWELL: I would never characterize Australia in that way. Australia has been a full partner with the United States in that region for as long as I can remember, and throughout my entire career in public service and in the military.

And in my confirmation hearing I tried to make the point that as the United States, as a Pacific nation, looks to the west and begins to deal with the challenges that we find there, whether it's in North Korea or in China or in Vietnam or elsewhere, we begin with the strong relations we have in the region -- with Japan, with South Korea -- and no relation is stronger than that with which we have with Australia. And I always like to make that point so no one ever mistakes it.

I think it has been very impressive to watch how the Australian Government and the Australian armed forces responded to the situation in East Timor, a situation that was very close to them. And they have done a terrific job out there. But that doesn't make them deputy sheriff to anybody; it makes them an important player in the region that is living up to the responsibilities and the challenges of the region.

FOREIGN MINISTER DOWNER: Well, I would only add to that by saying that as an ally of the United States and as a 50-year-old ally of the United States, we naturally cooperate with each other and discuss with each other a whole range of Asia Pacific issues. There is nothing new about that. It's always been thus.

And certainly, I mean, during the course of this visit we've been discussing the whole range of Asia Pacific issues that our two countries confront in that part of the world. I think that's the most natural thing you would expect between two friends and allies. But we are an independent country and we act in an independent way, and we protect and we promote Australian interests first and foremost. It has never been the policy of our government, has never been the policy of an Australian government, to be the deputy to any other country in the last 100 years since Australia became the proud and independent nation that it is.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)


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