Australia's security focus continues to be the Asia Pacific region, where Australian interests are most directly engaged. Australia remains generally positive about the outlook for strategic relations in the region, and for the continued successful management of key regional security issues. This is despite the horrific events of 11 September 2001, which have added a new layer of complexity to the global and regional security outlook, and the increased risk at present of conflict in South Asia.
Australia considers that relations among the major powers have improved in recent times, with a new inter-meshing of strategic interests and connections, including through common cause in fighting terrorism. This is a welcome development which, if sustained, would do much to strengthen regional and global security.
From Australia's perspective, continued strategic engagement by the United States provides a vital underpinning to regional stability and security. The more constructive dialogue that exists now between the United States and China, following strains last year, is encouraging. So too, at the global level, is the agreement reached between the United States and Russia on a new strategic framework. Australia welcomes positive security trends in Europe, like NATO expansion and formation of the NATO-Russia Council. Australia also welcomes Japan's more active contribution to international and regional security, at a pace with which it and all of its neighbours are comfortable.
Regional cooperation has intensified recently,. including in combating terrorism and related transnational crime. But continued effort, commitment and vigilance by all regional states will be required if the region's relative peace and prosperity is to endure. A number of fundamental security challenges remain, including unresolved territorial disputes, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), ethnic division, separatism, and lawlessness. A host of non-military threats to security also demand attention, including pandemics, piracy, illegal migration, refugee flows, environmental degradation, narcotics and economic disparities.
Australia conducts regular bilateral and multilateral security dialogues with regional countries. These are an important element in Australia's security strategy, and provide an opportunity to share views on a wide range of global and regional security issues, promote transparency and underline Australia's commitment to working cooperatively on security issues. In 2001/02, Australia held regional security talks with the ROK, Japan and the United States. Australia also conducted talks with three new security dialogues partners -India, the EU and NATO -and expects soon to hold another round of talks with China. Australia also plans to hold a trilateral security dialogue with Japan and the United States at senior officials' level.
Australia continues to view the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) as valuable in promoting stable relationships between the major powers, and as a useful complement to the bilateral alliances and dialogues which are at the heart of the region's security architecture. The ARF would benefit from developing further its preventive diplomacy agenda, and the role of defence representatives. It is also important that the ARF respond appropriately and vigorously to the terrorism challenge.
The Korean Peninsula remains a potential flash point of intersecting major power interests. Important security issues remain unresolved, including the overwhelming DPRK conventional threat; uncertainty about the DPRK's nuclear program; and the DPRK's ballistic missile program and missile proliferation activities. Indefinite extension by DPRK of its moratorium on missile flight testing, and other undertakings to curtail ballistic missile programs, would enhance regional and global security. Australia strongly supports the ROK's policy of engagement with the DPRK, and resumption of dialogue between the DPRK and the United States. Australia urges the DPRK to work with the IAEA in allowing the nuclear safety verification inspections that are critical to the ongoing viability of the US-DPRK Agreed Framework.
Australia fully supports Indonesia's territorial integrity, which is vital for the broader security of the region. Indonesia's commitment to seeking peaceful and consultative non-military solutions to secessionist challenges is welcome, including the passage of special autonomy laws for Papua and Aceh. It is important that the regional and international community remain engaged and supportive of Indonesia's efforts to undertake major structural and legal reforms needed for sustained economic growth.
Australia and the region have an interest in a stable and secure East Timor with constructive relations with its neighbours, especially Indonesia. The successful bilateral (East Timor-Indonesia) and trilateral (Australia-East Timor-Indonesia) meetings in Bali in February 2002 bode well for future regional cooperation. Australia looks forward to further meetings to consolidate the process of regional engagement. Continued international support for East Timor following its independence on 20 May 2002 will be critical to ensuring that successes achieved thus far are not jeopardised. Australia is pleased that security in west Timor has improved and refugee returns increased, but recognises the need for further work by the international community towards harmonious repatriation of refugees and their absorption into East Timor.
Australia is concerned that many Pacific island countries are not coping well with development challenges in an era of globalisation. Political instability is increasingly the result. In Papua New Guinea, instability should lessen if the government formed after the June elections carries forward political and economic reforms started in recent years. Although elections in late 2001 restored democracy to Fiji, the electorate remains polarised along ethnic lines and the government faces significant difficulties. Further instability is likely if the new government misjudges the balance between expectations of indigenous Fijians and rights of the Indo-Fijian community. The Solomon Islands also faces a very uncertain future. Ethnic violence has seriously damaged the economy, and there are major law and order problems. Australia is providing extensive support as an expression of its commitment to Solomon Islands' recovery, and was also active in encouraging Fiji to hold elections at an early date.
Australia welcomes the support provided by India and Pakistan to the international effort against terrorism. Nevertheless, Australia remains deeply concerned at continuing tension between the two countries, and encourages resumption of bilateral dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir. Australia reiterates the need for Pakistan to take urgent steps to ensure militant organisations and individuals do not use its territory to strike against India. As the recent military build-up and risk of war has demonstrated, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by both countries has not contributed to regional stability or to efforts to limit the spread of WMD.
Australia welcomes the release of the NLD General Secretary, Aung San Suu Kyi, as an importar1t step in the political reconciliation process. Australia encourages the Myanmar Government to build on this with further steps to advance the process. Australia also welcomes ongoing efforts by Malaysia and UN Special Envoy to Myanmar, Tan Sri Razali Ismail, to facilitate peaceful change in Myanmar, and encourage other regional countries to contribute to reconciliation efforts.
South China Sea
Australia does not take a position on competing claims in the South China Sea, which are a matter for the parties concerned to resolve. However, Australia considers that heightened tensions and rivalry between claimants could adversely affect the broader security of the Asia Pacific region. Additionally, shipping routes important to Australia and major regional economies pass through the disputed area. Australia encourages claimants to continue to discuss their differences, and supports continued efforts among claimants to establish a Code of Conduct for the disputed areas.
Cross Straits Relations
The region has a vital interest in the continued peaceful management of cross-straits relations. This is an issue of international importance with the potential to affect the whole region. Australia believes differences should be resolved through peaceful dialogue and restraint and encourages all parties to maintain a pragmatic and patient approach. It is important that countries with key interests at stake continue to urge that differences be managed prudently and patiently.
Nuclear, missile and disarmament issues
The region's security outlook is shaped directly by the extent to which proliferation of WMD and delivery systems can be restricted. International regimes playa key role in helping to prevent WMD proliferation. These regimes can be made stronger and more effective through regional support, including with each additional ratification.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) underpins the non-proliferation norm in the nuclear field. Active participation in the 2005 NPT Review Conference and Preparatory Committee meetings will help ensure maintenance of that norm. Australia also urges regional countries to conclude Additional Protocols with the IAEA to demonstrate commitment to the strengthened safeguards system. Further ratifications of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would enhance regional security. Australia also emphasises the importance of active support for the early commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.
Australia was deeply disappointed by the failure of negotiations for a protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) which would have helped further to keep the region free of biological weapons. In the absence of progress towards a protocol, Australia encourages regional countries to strengthen the global ban on biological weapons by supporting a series of annual meetings of BWC states parties and taking early practical steps to improve domestic regulatory frameworks. More ratifications of the BWC and the Chemical Weapons Convention would benefit the region.
Australia is concerned about the threat to regional and global security arising from the proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of delivering WMD. Australia encourages regional countries to support adoption of the draft International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation as a means of building confidence and encouraging restraint in respect of countries' ballistic missile programs.
Australia welcomes the adoption of the UN Program of Action on Small Arms in July 2001, including the constructive role played by regional countries in achieving this important outcome. Adoption of the Program of Action demonstrates the political will of all countries and regions to address the humanitarian and socio-economic problems posed by the illicit small arms trade. Australia continues to believe that a non-binding ARF Declaration on Small Arms would complement commitments all members have entered into through adoption of the Program of Action, and would have value in confirming the region's intention to combat the illicit small arms trade.
Australia has adopted a comprehensive whole-of-government strategy to combat people smuggling and to stem the illegal flow of people to Australia, with a view to ensuring it retains the capacity to control national borders and determine who enters the country. Australia is cooperating with a number of countries in areas such as interception of illegal migrants, criminalisation of people smuggling and prosecution of known people smugglers. Australia is also assisting other countries to strengthen their border control systems. In keeping with the search for regional solutions to the problems of people smuggling and illegal migration, Australia and Indonesia co-hosted the Bali Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Transnational Crime in February 2002. Australia is working with regional countries, the 10M and UNHCR to follow up recommendations of the Ministerial Conference.
Terrorism by non-state actors and state-sponsored terrorism has emerged as a significant and pressing threat to international security, and poses new challenges for Asia-Pacific security. The disruption of Jemaah Islamiyah cells in Singapore late last year, and the presence (and recent arrests) of suspected terrorists in several other regional countries, indicate the region is not immune to the terrorism threat.
Australia considers that strong cooperation between regional governments is critically important in combating international terrorism, especially in the exchange of information and intelligence to identify possible terrorist threats early. The ARF has shown constructive focus in addressing the terrorism challenge, initially through the welcome statement by the ARF Chair condemning terrorism and foreshadowing counter-terrorism cooperation, and subsequently through workshops sponsored by individual ARF member countries. Several other promising initiatives have also been proposed. The test remains for the ARF to respond in concrete terms, in a way that adds value and permits effective implementation.
Australia has taken a number of steps to support the fight against terrorism. For the first time, Australia invoked its ANZUS security alliance with the United States, and has subsequently contributed substantially to coalition anti- terrorist military operations. An Australian Special Air Service detachment has been conducting special forces operations in southern Afghanistan since November 2001. A three-ship Australian Navy task group is also deployed tothe region and is currently undertaking maritime interception duties in the Gulf. Two Australian 707 refuelling air craft are also providing support for coalition forces.
Australia has conducted a high-level review of its counter-terrorism measures, resulting in upgrades to domestic counter-terrorism capabilities, legislative framework, and aviation security. Australia was quick to take a range of financial measures against terrorism, and is a party to nine of the twelve international anti-terrorism instruments (and is in the process of acceding to twC? more). Australia has also played a lead role at the United Nations in attempting to finalise the proposed Comprehensive Convention. Against Terrorism, especially on the central and most contentious issue of achieving an agreed definition of terrorism.
Foreign and Trade Policy White Paper
The Australian Government is preparing a new White Paper on Australia's foreign and trade policy entitled Advancing the National Interest. The central purpose of the White Paper is to ascertain how Australia can best direct its assets to meeting the security and economic challenges of a globalised and fluid international environment. The paper will be published in late 2002.
Defence White paper
The 2000 Defence White Paper continues to provide the long term basis for Australian defence capability planning and development. In January 2002, the Minister for Defence approved the development by Defence of an Annual Strategic Review. This will review Australia's strategic environment to examine longer-term trends and determine implications for defence capability.