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AUSMIN: Decoding the declaration

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COMMENTS

9 November 2010 10:03

Yesterday's Australia-US Ministerial Consultations, or AUSMIN, was one of the most consequential Australia-US security discussions in years. It is an answer to this year's unsettling Chinese assertiveness. And, as one newspaper has long trumpeted, it marks a shift towards a greater US military footprint in Australia. It may even prove to be the first step in a gradual process towards a permanent US military presence.

Beyond the rhetoric, here's an effort to decipher some select bits of the communiqué:

Recognising that strong cooperative mechanisms in the Asia–Pacific region are fundamental to global stability and prosperity, Australia and the United States pledged to collaborate further on regional security matters, including through bilateral consultations on the US Global Force Posture Review and by enhancing their bilateral dialogue on East Asia.

Let's talk about China. A lot.

Australia and the United States are committed to working together to help shape international norms to advance vital shared interests in the domains of sea, airspace and outer space as well as to advance important matters related to cybersecurity.

Let's talk about China and maritime security, China and space, China and cybersecurity.

Australia and the United States share the goal of seeking a positive, cooperative relationship with China on regional economic development and common security concerns as well as on addressing global challenges.

Though we still live in hope.

Australia and the United States endorsed the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) strategy and underlined the importance of endorsing a credible, conditions–based transition plan at the NATO / ISAF Leaders' Summit in Lisbon in November that would enable the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to progressively assume responsibility for security in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Australia and the US are on the same page about Afghanistan — the exit will not be rapid, and Canberra will help sell this message to any waverers in Europe.

Australia and the United States acknowledged the strategic importance of Pakistan to South Asia's regional stability and reinforced their long–term commitment to support Pakistan as a partner in its efforts to achieve a democratic, stable and prosperous future.

Good luck.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Both countries pledged to advance the actions agreed at the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, to press for negotiations on a verifiable Fissile Material Cut–off Treaty, and to progress work on nuclear security.

Good luck again. Pakistan is the big hold–out here.

Australia and the United States reiterated their deep concern over Iran's continuing failure to comply with UN Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors' resolutions on its nuclear activities. They reaffirmed their commitment to the full implementation of UNSCR 1929. A central priority for both countries is Iran's compliance with its international obligations on its nuclear and missile programs.

Nobody wants war, but if the US ends up fighting, it expects Australia to be there.

Australia welcomed the February 2010 US Ballistic Missile Defence Review, which re–focused US missile defence efforts on regional strategies to meet the more immediate challenge of missile threats from certain states, in particular the DPRK and Iran. Australia noted the United States' focus on sustaining and enhancing the US military's ability to defend the US homeland against attack by a small number of long–range ballistic missiles. Australia and the United States confirmed that these regional missile defence strategies would not undermine the deterrent effect of the strategic balance between the major nuclear powers.

The Labor party's ideological opposition to missile defences has broken down.  This is a step towards Australia acquiring its own limited missile defence capabilities. 

The United States welcomed Australia's program of capability development outlined in the White Paper …

But will Canberra deliver'

Photo by US Navy, used under a Creative Commons licence.

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