Transcript - Stephen Smith Interview On Sky News

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8th November 2010, 03:13pm - Views: 614








KIERAN GILBERT:  Defence Minister Stephen Smith, thank you very

much for your time. You're at Government House [Melbourne] ahead of

these AUSMIN talks today and we understand there will be even closer

defence ties at the end of this Summit. Are you concerned about the reaction

that we might see from China, that the United States will have an even

greater presence in Australia?

STEPHEN SMITH:  Well firstly we have an Alliance with the United States

which is of long standing and that remains the bedrock of our defence,

strategic and security arrangements.

People should not get too far ahead of themselves. The United States is

doing what we describe as a force posture review. They haven't completed

that, and that's looking at all of the disposition of their forces throughout the

world, not just throughout our region. 

So we need them to complete and conclude that so-called force posture

review. We of course cooperate very closely with them.  We have joint

facilities in Australia. They visit and have access to some of our ports and

the like. We expect that in the future that will be enhanced, but in terms of

the detail that won't be decided today. 

We need to take it in an orderly fashion. But of course any enhanced

engagement by the United States in our region is an unambiguously good

thing for Australia and our region and we welcome that. 


KIERAN GILBERT: We can hear the security presence in the air there,

obviously very intense security with the Defense Secretary and the Secretary

of State in Melbourne. In terms of the Chinese sensitivities though, will you

be talking to your Chinese counterpart to try and placate him and ease any

concern that they do have?

STEPHEN SMITH:  Well in the first instance, obviously it's very important

that Australia has a positive and productive relationship with China, not just

on the economic front but also on defence and military cooperation front

and we have enhanced that engagement in recent times. 

More importantly in very many respects it is important and essential that the

United States itself has a positive and productive relationship with China on

the defence and military cooperation front. We encourage that.

As China grows economically it's also - as we see - they are enhancing their

military capacity. We expect that and understand that as a country's

economy grows so their military capacity will grow but that needs to be

transparent and we've made that point to China and to the United States. 

What we do with the United States is open, it's transparent, and that's


It's important that China in terms of its military and modernisation is also

transparent and we've made that point both privately to China and also


KIERAN GILBERT:  But are you concerned as some strategists are

suggesting that we've got the military Alliance, the bedrock Alliance as you

describe it, and then on the other hand this economic reliance on China and

China buying our commodities?

STEPHEN SMITH:  Well we have a very strong economic relationship with

China but we're not the only country that does. China and the United States

have a very close economic relationship so there is in some respects an

economic interdependence there. 

The enhancement of trade, the growth of economic and social and people to

people links is a very good thing because that increases understanding

between two countries and two peoples. It increases the ties, and so we work

very hard on our economic relationship with China. 


But the United States and China also have a close economic relationship and

that's a good thing but in all of these areas it's important to use the jargon or

to use the phrase that we minimise risk, that we minimise the chance for

miscalculation which means we have to do things which maximise

understanding, which maximise certainty between countries and that's why

we strongly encourage a good and positive productive relationship including

defence and military cooperation between the United States and China just

as we ourselves do that with China, recently engaging in some naval

exercises with them.

KIERAN GILBERT:  Minister just quickly, I know you've got to go, one

last question, on the Afghanistan draw down will today's talks lock in the

draw down of our forces as part of the broader ISAF commitment?

STEPHEN SMITH:  Well we are committed to completing our mission in

Uruzgan Province, which is a training mission. We think we can do that

over the next two to four years. The international community has set 2014 as

an aspiration for the transfer of security to the Afghan National Security

Forces. So we'll be talking about the transition arrangements and it is

conditions-based not timetable led. 

The upcoming conference, the NATO ISAF Summit in Lisbon that the

Prime Minister and I will attend,

will be a very important feature on the

international community calendar as we work through the detail of

transitioning to Afghan responsibility. 

So we're not talking in terms of a timetable, we're talking in terms of

meeting our objective, meeting the conditions so that we can transfer

security responsibility to Afghanistan. We think we can do that on a two to

four year time table which matches the 2014 aspiration that President Karzai

and the Afghan Government has but also the international community has,

which was effectively the decision made at the Afghan Conference in Kabul

in July-August.

KIERAN GILBERT:  Defence Minister Stephen Smith, appreciate your

time. Thanks a lot for that.

STEPHEN SMITH:  Thanks Kieran. Thanks very much.  

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