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The Forum > Article Comments > When relationships prove to be a headache > Comments

When relationships prove to be a headache : Comments

By Greg Barns, published 15/3/2007

With the signing of the joint security declaration with Japan, some in Beijing are wondering whether Australia is trying to be all things to all people.

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Greg Barns' analysis is sound. As a foreign policxy initiative, Howard's security agreement is simply inept. It carries no benefit to Australian national interests - a traditional visit communique or joint statement would have done just as well in terms of the substance - and it has the downside potential to worry China. Even Howard knows this when he says that he hopes China won't be "too" worried about it. The adverb shows Howard's own unease at what he has done.

Like other Howard forays into foreign policy, it is 95% about domestic politics - trying again to wedge Labor into taking up an over-critical position that Howard could then try to construe as "irresponsible" and "unrealistic" (as he regularly tries to do with the ANZUS alliance). Rudd is too clever to fall into such traps - his criticism of this agreeement with Japan is measured and sober. There is nothing Howard can use here against Rudd. Ploy failed.

For voters, it is another reminder of how Howard's judgement is failing him in this election year. Yes, 60 years have passed since WW2, we know this intellectually, but an agreement of this kind - Japasese soldiers exercising on Australian soil? - will send a frisson down the spines of enough voters to further erode Howard's vote. And this happens in the same week when Howard's counterpart Abe equally clumsily mishandles the sensitive issure of comfort women in WW2. Not a good look for Howard or Abe.

But after December it won't matter - we will have a new Prime Minister who actually understands the finer points of foreign policy and national security.

Tony Kevin (former DFAT officer 1268-98
Posted by tonykevin 1, Thursday, 15 March 2007 10:21:02 AM
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The text of the security pact is on the Foreign Affairs website at http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/japan/aus_jap_security_dec.html

Interesting that the article focuses on China's sensitivities when North Korea appears to be the more immediate threat. Are last year's North Korean nuclear and missile tests now unmentionable? As North Korea now has (crude) nuclear weapons Japan will be looking at its own nuclear self defence.

Japan is no doubt considering many aspects of self defence that draw it away from the US' (Okinawa centred) defence umbrella.

The reason for Japanese nuclear self defence is that its possible North Korea may threaten Japan again in future - but this time with reliable rockets and nuclear warheads. The US may not wish to risk its own population in defence of Japan. The same threat (and US calculations) may relate to Australia some day.

Hence we have common interests with Japan in developing our own nuclear weapons to protect us (food for thought ;).

Pete
http://spyingbadthings.blogspot.com
Posted by plantagenet, Thursday, 15 March 2007 10:31:39 AM
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In addition to the new US military base, to be sited at Geraldton, to which surprisingly little media attention has been devoted, the new relationship with Japan might appear to be part of a larger plan on John Howard's part to ally us yet further with US interests in this region. China might well be paranoid about it & to our detriment. I share the hope that Rudd will be more independent of US policy & more willing to maintain good relationships with all our neighbours.
Posted by achenne1, Thursday, 15 March 2007 12:27:32 PM
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Achenne1

Arguably the security agreement with Japan makes us less dependent on the US alliance. Although containment of China is still the unstated common denominator.

On Geraldton I don't know how much is generally known but a quick perusal of Wikipedia and Globalsecurity yields:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geraldton,_Western_Australia#Australian_Defence_Satellite_Communications_Station indicates its been a semi US signals intelligence (sigint) base for years.

"The Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station (ADSCS) is located at Kojarena, inland near Geraldton. The ADSCS is part of the US signals intelligence and analysis network ECHELON [sic]. The station has four satellite tracking dishes which intercept communications from Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Pakistani regional satellites and international communications satellites (INTELSATs and COMSATs), throughout the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian regions.

Staff are drawn from the American National Security Agency [NSA] and the Australian Defence Signals Directorate, and the site is operated under the UKUSA [intelligence sharing] Agreement.

On 15 February 2007, it was announced that a new US military communications base would be built in Geraldton, after three years of secret negotiations between the US and the Australian Federal Government"

From http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/news/1999/06/990602-275397.htm : "There are at least three sites around the world that steal Intelsat traffic bound for China:
In western Australia, near the town of Geraldton..."

From http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/news/1999/09/990912-310730.htm : "The spying also includes international communications in and out of Indonesia. UKUSA bases at Geraldton in western Australia and Waihopai on New Zealandís north island have dishes aimed at the Intelsat communications satellites which carry the bulk of international phone calls, faxes and e-mail."

So I think Australia would be very interested in Geraldton's attention to Indonesian/ET communications and the whole UKUSA network would see Geraldton as important re the China target.

Pete
http://spyingbadthings.blogspot.com/
Posted by plantagenet, Thursday, 15 March 2007 1:07:08 PM
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Howard has blundered yet again in foreign affairs. Unlike Germany, Japan has not formally apologised for war crimes of world war II. Germany has apologised, made restitution and moved on. As recently as last month Abe went on about his denial that women from across Asia were forced to serve as frontline prostitutes.

Howard seems to have forgotten the Siam-Burma Railway of World War 2
when allied soldiers from Britain and Australia were driven like slaves by the Japs. The harsh and brutal treatment of the P.O.W. resulted in thousands dying. Did the Japs apologised for that?

Historically, the Chinese have had no ambitions to enlarge their borders or put up puppet governments the world over as their deomestic problems would occupy them for a 1000 thousand years
Posted by Philip Tang, Thursday, 15 March 2007 1:55:57 PM
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"Historically, the Chinese have had no ambitions to enlarge their borders or put up puppet governments the world over as their deomestic problems would occupy them for a 1000 thousand years."

Unless we're talking about Tibet of course, but then, we're not allowed to comment on other nations' politics, but it seems like it's open slather from every direction every time we do something.

Personally, what doesn't concern me here is not whether this is or isn't a good foreign policy decision, but two things. The first is that those who regularly bemoan that every foreign policy has to be made with the blessing of Washington don't seem nearly as upset at the prospect of Beijing doing the same. At the end of the day, who cares in a sense? We're our own country and everyone else should mind their own bloody business, or let's at least have some consistency.

Secondly, I certainly don't lionise Japan, but the majority of Japanese alive today had nothing to do with WW2 and any arguments, subtle or not, along the lines of "we fought those little yellow bastards at Kokoda and now they're going to be on our soil" are just juvenile. I thought, unlike a lot of parts of the world, we had the good sense to put the past in the past in this country.
Posted by shorbe, Thursday, 15 March 2007 2:51:11 PM
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