Archive for Australia
The US alliance will not drag Australia into war with China, says the top US diplomat for Asia. Assistant Secretary for East Asia at the State Department Daniel Russel rejected the assertion by former prime minister Malcolm Fraser that Australia was so locked into the US system that it would have no option but to join any American war with China. To the contrary, Mr Russel said America’s strong engagement across the region and its push-back against Chinese misbehaviour has substantially reduced the risk of military conflict. Mr Russel was speaking after top-level Ausmin security meetings that opened the door to the integration of Australian and US ballistic missile defence systems, additional US ship visits to Perth and increased use of a Northern Territory bombing range by the US Air Force. He said the US remained overwhelmingly committed to the Asian region even as the Obama administration was prosecuting air strikes in Iraq and coming under pressure to intervene to curb a worsening band of disorder that now stretches from Libya to Ukraine. Mr Russel’s strongest comments were in response to Mr Fraser’s view that the US-Australia alliance is a Cold War anachronism that denies Australia the strategic room to opt out of any war against China.
The Australian Embassy in Vietnam has issued a statement on the suppression orders issued by the Supreme Court of Victoria concerning the Australian-style polymer note printing case. The Embassy stressed that the suppression orders in question were not released by the Supreme Court of Victoria. It also noted that Australia takes the breach of the suppression orders extremely seriously and the matter has been referred to the police. According to the statement, the suppression orders were issued by the Supreme Court of Victoria on the application of the Australian Government. The Australian Government obtained suppression orders to prevent publication of information that could suggest the involvement in corruption by specific senior political figures in the region.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Australian embassy staff in a “tense but calm” Iraq have made plans for evacuation. But she would not confirm reports they have begun destroying documents at the mission in Baghdad because of military advances by Sunni militants. A small Defence team has been sent to Baghdad to review security at the mission and to help prepare for an evacuation if it becomes necessary. Non-essential staff at the embassy have already been evacuated following the capture of several key Iraqi cities by Sunni extremists, who overnight seized a key Syrian border crossing. Ms Bishop said staff in Baghdad were still doing some embassy work, although this was limited. “Our embassy is making contingency plans should we have to evacuate them but at this stage there is no discussion about that beyond putting those plans in place,” she told ABC’s Insiders. “They are still doing diplomatic work, including consular work, but that is limited.”
A small detachment of Australian soldiers is being sent to Iraq to help bolster security at the Australian embassy in Baghdad. The United States has deployed 300 military advisers to Iraq, on top of 275 personnel sent to protect its embassy in the capital. Australian Defence Minister David Johnston will not confirm how many personnel have been sent for security reasons. He said the defence liaison force is being deployed to protect embassy staff and evacuate them if necessary, not to help Iraqi forces battling militants who have seized large swathes of the country’s north in the past two weeks. Australia’s decision comes after US president Barack Obama announced US military advisers would also help Iraq combat the threat posed by the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and its Sunni allies. The Australian embassy was moved into the highly secure green zone in Baghdad in 2004 after a series of car bombings struck near the previous embassy building. In 2011, 33 Australian soldiers who guarded the embassy withdrew from the country and a Dubai-based private security firm took over security duties. The soldiers guarding the embassy were the last significant Australian troop presence in the country. Australia once had 2,000 soldiers in Iraq, one of the larger non-US deployments.
Australia has begun evacuating some of its embassy staff members from Iraq due to the security conditions in the country, officials say. “Due to the deteriorating security situation, a number of Australian officials have been withdrawn from Baghdad,” Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said on Monday. The DFAT said, however, that the Australian embassy will remain open with reduced staffing levels. The US also began evacuating some of its staff from Baghdad while providing further security for its embassy, which is located in the capital’s heavily-fortified Green Zone. US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said a number of embassy staff would be “temporarily relocated” to US consulates in the port city of Basra and the Kurdish regional capital, Arbil, while others would be sent to the US embassy in Amman.
The Palestinian foreign ministry summoned Australia’s diplomatic representative after a top judicial official said Canberra would no longer refer to annexed east Jerusalem as “occupied.” Last week, Australian attorney general George Brandis sparked Palestinian fury by saying Canberra would not use such “judgemental language” to describe an area which was the subject of negotiations. Israel hailed the remarks as “refreshing”, but the Palestinian leadership denounced them as “disgraceful and shocking”, with the ministry making a formal diplomatic protest on Sunday. “The Palestinian foreign ministry summoned the Australian representative Thomas Wilson over the recent comments by the Australian attorney general asking to stop referring to east Jerusalem as occupied territories,” a ministry statement said. Speaking to reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, foreign minister al-Malki said he was “worried” about the remarks which contravened the position of the international community.
China has accused the US states of spying on its foreign officials in an apparent effort to negate negative publicity about Chinese cyber espionage. The claims were made in a report by the national broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), which also alleged the country’s embassy in Australia was bugged by the US when it was built. The report followed the sudden return to Beijing of China’s Ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaoxu, on Monday for “a meeting”. CCTV also said China’s decision to ban government use of Windows 8, Microsoft Corp’s latest operating system, was because of “risks of being monitored and controlled remotely”. CCTV interviewed Chinese foreign ministry official Zhou Jingxing, who said the ministry had been a victim of US espionage, which resulted in email problems. He did not talk specifically about the Chinese embassy in Australia. China and the US have traded accusations on espionage and computer hacking for years. But the debate intensified earlier this month following Washington’s decision to lay formal charges against one of China’s alleged cyber-hacking units. On May 19, the US Department of Justice charged five Chinese military officials with corporate espionage and computer hacking and placed them on the country’s most wanted list. The latest claims about the Chinese embassy in Australia are not new. In 1995, the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australian intelligence officers and US National Security Agency technicians had put bugging devices in the embassy during its construction. They were repeated in a report released this week by China’s State Internet Information Office. which was titled America’s Global Surveillance Record.