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Australia - New Zealand Defence Ministerial Talks
15 June 2000
The following statement was issued by Mark Burton's office today, 15 June.
Wellington, 15 June 2000
The New Zealand Minister of Defence, Hon Mark Burton, and the Australian Minister for Defence, Hon John Moore, met in Wellington on 15 June 2000 for the annual Australia-New Zealand Defence Ministers' talks. These talks followed the meeting of the Australia-New Zealand Consultative Committee involving the Secretaries of Defence and Chiefs of Defence Forces.
The Security of the Region
Ministers discussed security developments in the Asia Pacific region. They agreed that there were a number of challenges which underline the importance of the two countries being able to work together to contribute to peace and stability in the region.
Recent developments in the South Pacific region were of particular concern to Ministers. They agreed that it was not acceptable for Fiji or Solomon Islands to abandon their constitutional processes. Nor could they accept the imposition in Fiji of a constitution which would deny any of the people basic rights of citizenship. Ministers urged an early return to democratic principles in both countries.
Ministers expressed regret that the situation in Solomon Islands had deteriorated to the point where it had become necessary to evacuate their nationals. They welcomed the ability of the two defence forces to respond swiftly to this requirement and the effective way it had been carried out.
Ministers were encouraged by recent positive developments in the Bougainville peace process, and in particular, the signing of the Loloata Understanding which saw a Bougainville Provincial Government sworn-in. They urged the parties to continue to work towards a comprehensive political settlement. They acknowledged the valuable role the Peace Monitoring Group had played and appreciated the on-going contributions provided by Fiji and Vanuatu. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to facilitating a durable settlement, noting the important contributions to this objective being made by the Peace Monitoring Group. Recent progress in the peace process had made it possible to reduce the size of that mission.
Indonesia and East Timor were of particular interest to Ministers. They agreed that the Australia and New Zealand Defence Forces had demonstrated a high degree of professionalism during the INTERFET operation to restore peace and security in East Timor. They also acknowledged the importance of the on-going role of both forces in ensuring peace prevails in East Timor during this critical period in its history. New Zealand acknowledged the substantial contribution Australia had made to the international peacekeeping effort and its management of the very successful transition to the United Nations operation. Both Ministers also acknowledged the co-operation of the Indonesian Government in enabling the INTERFET operation to go ahead. Ministers noted the substantial challenges that lay ahead for East Timor.
In relation to Indonesia, Ministers were encouraged by and supported the efforts of President Wahid to implement wide-ranging reform, including military reforms and changes to civil-military relations.
Ministers expressed the hope that the recent elections in Taiwan would provide an opportunity for a better relationship between Taiwan and China.
They noted that a reduction in tension between the two would contribute to the security of the entire region. Ministers were particularly heartened by the inaugural meeting between the leaders of South Korea and North Korea taking place this week. They hoped it would lead to an easing of tension on the Korean Peninsula.
Ministers looked forward to the Five Power Defence Arrangements Ministerial meeting in Singapore next month. They agreed that this consultative arrangement continued to play a valuable role in enabling regional defence forces to operate together and were pleased with the progress that had been made in ensuring the FPDA remained relevant to the contemporary security environment. Ministers reaffirmed their support for the ASEAN Regional Forum as an important means of promoting security dialogue and building confidence in the region. They welcomed the recent membership of North Korea and saw it as a further step in reducing tension in the region.
The Australia/New Zealand Defence Relationship
Ministers reaffirmed the key importance to both countries of the bilateral defence relationship. They noted that the strategic situation in the Asia Pacific region directly affects the security environment of both Australia and New Zealand.
Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to Closer Defence Relations (CDR) between Australia and New Zealand and agreed on the future direction of the CDR action programme. They acknowledged that the INTERFET operation in East Timor clearly demonstrated that good progress had been made under CDR to ensure the two forces can work effectively together in an operational environment. They agreed that Australia and New Zealand must continue to work closely to constantly improve this, especially in the areas of logistics, operations, command, control and communications. They noted the need for interoperability across all areas of defence. Ministers also indicated that they keenly await the completion of the studies currently being undertaken on lessons learned from East Timor.
Ministers discussed the review process being undertaken of defence policies and capabilities by both countries, and stressed the importance these would have for the direction and effectiveness of CDR in the future. Ministers agreed that, while each country would naturally determine its own defence and security policies, New Zealand and Australia continued to have common interests and aspirations for the security and stability of the Asia Pacific. In the context of this enduring strategic partnership, they confirmed that they would keep each other well informed of their respective on-going policy and review processes.