The United States, Australia and Japan concluded historic security talks with
praise for China's engagement in the Asia-Pacific and an agreement to seek
greater cooperation within Asia.
L-R Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso,
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice pose for a photograph prior to their trilateral talks in
Sydney. The historic security talks concluded with praise for China's
engagement in the Asia-Pacific and an agreement to seek greater
cooperation within Asia. [AFP]
of State Condoleezza Rice and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso were hosted by
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer for talks in Sydney that focussed
on the war in Iraq, Iran's nuclear crisis and China's rising power.
"Supporting the emergence and consolidation of democracies and strengthening
cooperative frameworks in the Asia-Pacific region was a particular focus of our
attention," they said in a joint statement.
"We welcomed China's constructive engagement in the region and concurred on
the value of enhanced cooperation with other parties such as ASEAN (Association
of Southeast Asian Nations) and the Republic of Korea."
The parties welcomed as a positive step a decision by India to place its
civilian nuclear facilities under international safeguards and recognized the
importance of "reinforcing our global partnership with India."
China's growing influence was expected to a major issue at the talks
following remarks by Rice earlier this week urging the Asian giant to explain
its military build-up.
Downer Saturday moved to dampen fears that the trilateral meet was designed
to produce a containment strategy on China, saying it was natural for three
countries with so much in common to meet to discuss security.
At a press conference after the meeting, Downer sought to reassure China
there was no "conspiracy" against it.
"This is a very natural relationship... and shouldn't be interpreted as an
act of conspiracy against China, of course it's not," he said.
"It's not for China to feel that we are ganging up on China or that Australia
is suddenly changing its policy on China."
Downer said the three countries were committed to helping Beijing participate
fully in the region.
"I think we all pretty much agree, even if we use different language, we want
to have a constructive relationship with China," Downer said.
He praised China's role in attempting to convince North Korea to return to
international talks on its nuclear programme, an outcome called for in the joint
In the statement, the trio also expressed serious concern over Iran's uranium
enrichment program and urged Tehran to return to talks with the United Nations'
nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Authority, and comply with its
"We have grave concerns about Iran's nuclear programme and discussed the need
for concerted action at the UN Security Council to convince Iran to promptly
suspend all enrichment-related activities," they said.
Downer urged Iran to abandon its decision to proceed with its "so-called
research program into uranium enrichment."
"We are concerned that they aren't showing a great deal of intention to do
that," he said.
Iraq was also discussed but Downer refused to give details on a possible
timetable for the withdrawal of Australian or Japanese troops.
"There was obviously discussions about many aspects of the Iraq issue and I
am not getting into those kinds of issues publicly," he told reporters.
The talks coincided with a 500-strong Sydney protest to mark the third
anniversary of the war in Iraq.
Organizer Anna Samson called for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops.
"The US needs to admit that the military approach is not the answer to peace
in Iraq," she told AFP.
Taro Aso held bilateral talks with Downer later Saturday during which the
ministers agreed to strengthen their joint efforts to stamp out terrorism and
build their strategic relationship.
Rice left Australia Saturday for her return flight home.