The annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations in Perth, Australia, was very much a “business as usual” conference that checked the state of the alliance and charted the way forward for the two countries.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta met Nov. 14 with their Australian counterparts, Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Defense Minister Stephen Smith. Nov. 13, the four met with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The U.S. and Australian ministers spoke with reporters at the Curtin House following their meetings today.
Carr said the meetings yielded no huge announcements and consisted mainly of consultation and reports on how previous decisions are being implemented.
The four discussed the U.S. Marine rotation to Darwin in northern Australia, Carr said. “We welcome the success of the first rotation, … and we look forward to the next rotation in 2013,” he added. The 250-Marine contingent in the recent rotation is scheduled to increase to 1,100 next year, and up to 2,500 over the next five years.
The four discussed additional possibilities for military cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, Carr said, specifically U.S. use of Australian ports and airfields. All agreed this needs more study, he added.
Clinton called the U.S.-Australian alliance “an anchor of peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and around the world, forged in war, but flourishing in peace.”
The four ministers discussed Afghanistan and the way forward in that nation, she said. “We honor the service and sacrifice of our Australian allies,” the secretary said. “We are on track to transition full responsibility to the Afghan government by the end of 2014, and we are also focused on economic and political transitions.”
The four talked about broader regional and global issues. Throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans, the American and Australian navies work together to protect the seaways through which much of the world’s trade passes. “Increasingly, our cybersecurity experts cooperate to keep our networks safe and our online commerce flowing smoothly,” Clinton said.
The secretary of state also congratulated the Australian Parliament for approving the U.S.-Australian Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty. “This agreement will boost trade and help our companies collaborate more closely and spur innovation,” she said. “It’s a definite win-win.”
Australia and the United States agreed on the way forward on Iran, Clinton said, noting that both countries want the international community to remain united to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
And the ministers discussed the on-going situation in Syria, the secretary said. “We agreed today that the formation of the new Syrian opposition coalition is an important step forward and will help us better target our assistance,” she added.
The secretary announced the United States will provide another $30 million of humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria and to the thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. This will bring the total for U.S. humanitarian assistance to $200 million, she said.
The United States and Australia will work with China and with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to develop “a code of conduct for the South China Sea, supporting continued reforms in Burma and pushing the peaceful, verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” she said.
The United States will host next year’s conference.