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Clinton warns Australia against 'false choice' on China

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Keating slams the government's priorities

Has Australia sold its foreign policy soul to Washington? Paul Keating weighs-in.

PT0M0S 620 349

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has warned Australia against making a ‘‘false choice’’ between its strong relationship with the United States and its emerging links with China.

Ms Clinton’s comments came the day after former Prime Minister Paul Keating accused the federal government of eroding Australia’s foreign policy influence by clinging to the United States alliance at the expense of its relationships with key Asian neighbours.

On Wednesday night, Mr Keating said both the Rudd and Gillard governments had made the same mistakes as the former Howard government in weakening Australia’s crucial relationships in Asia, particularly with Indonesia.

As a result, he said, Australia had been marginalised in regional diplomacy and the era had passed in which the country was an effective foreign policy activist.

In recent years the relationship with countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia has focused on ‘‘transactional issues of marginal long-term significance’’ such as refugees and live cattle exports.

‘‘Policy towards our nearest, largest neighbour, Indonesia, has languished, lacking framework, judgments of magnitude and coherence,’’ Mr Keating said.

But Ms Clinton said Australia’s relationship with the United States was ‘‘in our DNA’’.

‘‘I know there are some who present a false choice, that Australia needs to choose between its long-standing ties to the United States and its emerging links with China,’’ Ms Clinton said in Adelaide on Thursday.

‘‘Well, that kind of zero-sum thinking only leads to negative-sum results. We support Australia having strong, multi-faceted ties with every nation in the Asia Pacific, indeed in the world, including China. Just as we seek the same. And I have said repeatedly, the Pacific is big enough for all of us.

‘‘But for both of us, the US-Australia alliance is not a matter of calculation, or cost-benefit analysis, though the benefits are clear. It is much deeper than that. It is in our DNA; it is rooted in shared history and shared struggles to overcome adversity and build a better future for ourselves, our families and future generations.’’

Foreign Minister Bob Carr told ABC radio on Thursday that Australia was entitled to build up its military ties with the United States without fear of offending China.

Top officials from Australia and the US wrapped up bilateral discussions on defence strategy at the annual Australia-US Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations in Perth on Wednesday.

Senator Carr said China was not the focus of strengthening Australia’s alliance with the US, adding neither nation was concerned about offending the rising Asian power.

‘‘We recognise that an increasingly economic China will upgrade and modernise its military,’’ Senator Carr said.

‘‘By the same token, in the same spirit, Australia’s entitled to look after its own defences as a nation with a relatively small population over a vast territorial spread.

‘‘One way we will do that is by nurturing our treaty relationship with the United States.’’

He said China would be assured by the ‘‘predictability’’ of Australia’s ongoing relationship with the US, especially as the leadership in China undergoes transformation this week.

with AAP

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101 comments

  • Completely agree with Keating. We fall over ourselves to do Americas bidding, why? What possible benefit is there to our own national interests? On an economic level, they are one of the biggest debtor nations in the world without even a decent health policy for its own people. Hardly an example worth following. In terms of political interests, we risk being always seen as americans with aussie accents and nothing more. In case the politicians haven't realised it, the US is one of the most distrusted, unliked, unreliable and discredited of all nations on earth. So why align ourselves so closely with them? Even the Canadians don't do that!

    Commenter
    Aleron
    Date and time
    November 15, 2012, 7:31AM
    • Australia is a small fish in a big pond. China could not care less who we are aligned with. There is economic and security factors which make it worth our while to have a bet each way.

      Commenter
      Jimc
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 8:20AM
    • Too true - expressed cogently and succinctly in fact really quite unassailable!!!

      Commenter
      Mimi
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 8:26AM
    • Thanks Mimi

      Commenter
      Jimc
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 8:41AM
    • I think at present we are a little to close to the U.S., but that ebbs and flows with the tide of current affairs.

      I also think we should be working for closer ties with Indonesia, the Philippines and countries on mainland Asia.

      So the essence of what Keating is saying I agree with.

      Commenter
      J. Fraser
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 9:39AM
    • Now, let me get this right, Australia backs America, that backs Israel that likes to believe the myth that no people lived in Palestine before them. mmm, hang on, who do we know that also likes to believe the myth of Terra Nullius that no people lived in Australia prior to 1788 - of course, that would be modern Australia. The sooner we reconcile with our Australian Aboriginal heritage of at least 70,000 years, the sooner we can begin to hold our heads up on the world stage. America is a great Nation in many ways, but it was also founded on the myth of Terra Nullious, and has been trying to prove its right to exist ever since. Modern Western resource exploitative society has brought many great achievements, but long run wisdom is not one of those achievements. All conquering mentalities will eventually be conquered themselves.

      Commenter
      OpenWindow
      Location
      Vic
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 10:08AM
    • "Foreign policy is not my passion. It's not what I've spent my life doing," Julia Gillard

      And there you have the problem.

      Commenter
      SilverTail
      Location
      UpperNorthShore
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 10:25AM
    • @"SilverTail"

      Got any more quotes from the past ?

      Perhaps some from Abbott even ?

      Commenter
      J. Fraser
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 11:29AM
    • Yeah right, get our of bed with the worlds most powerful democracies and instead jump into tighter relationships with the worlds largest communist regime? Sounds like a great idea...NOT.

      The one country in Asia we should be forging tighter relationships with is Japan. Well educated people, stable democracy, innovative and advanced economy. We have a lot more to learn from them than the slave drivers in China.

      Commenter
      Barney
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 11:29AM
    • Allowing foreign troops on Australian soil at the precise time when that nation is undergoing a period of decine, and therefore at some future time could turn aggressive, beggers belief.
      It is a decision that could one day rebound to bite us in the backside.

      Commenter
      cruiseabout
      Location
      Broadbeach
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 11:39AM

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