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Transcript of press conference: Canberra: 6 December 2010: WikiLeaks; relations with China; Korean Peninsula; diplomatic communications

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The Hon Kevin Rudd MP Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Transcript of Press Conference, Canberra Subjects: WikiLeaks, Relations with China, Korean Peninsula, Diplomatic communications

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6 December 2010

KEVIN RUDD: I've just spent the last five or six days largely in the Middle East, in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates,

and also in Bahrain, and also in Central Asia for a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

In the UAE I had the opportunity of some considerable discussions with the Government there on our security

relationship. You may be aware that much of our operations in Afghanistan is serviced out of the base at Al Minhab,

and we again acknowledged our appreciation for the cooperation and support of the government of the UAE. That's

essential to our security interests in the wider region.

Secondly, we also spent some time talking about the current status of our free-trade agreement between Australia and

the GCC, Gulf Cooperation Council, countries. This is near completion although the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the

Gulf countries has now commissioned an external review of all of its proposed free trade agreements with external

countries, and that will still take some months to conclude.

In Bahrain I had the opportunity of meeting political leaders and foreign ministers from many of the Gulf and Arab

states in a conference convened by the Institute of Strategic Studies in London on the security challenges faced by the

region, in particular that posed by Iran, and also the continuing debate over the settlement of the long-standing dispute

between Israel and Palestine.

In Central Asia, the purpose of the gathering there was Australia for the first time has been admitted as an Asian

partner to the OSCE. This enabled me to speak with the foreign ministers from across Central Asia and Caucasus

where we have a range of outstanding unresolved territorial disputes.

Australia has a keen interest in these disputes being resolved peacefully. The OSCE has a particular role to play in

that, and it was also a good opportunity to meet other foreign ministers and leaders from around the world.

The last think I'd say is, this also provided Australia with an opportunity to underline the fact that our interests are not

just in Asia-Pacific but also in the Indian Ocean as well, in particular the developments of a security nature in the Gulf

and more broadly in the Middle East, given our extensive economic interests there.

It may be of little surprise to you to know that some of the matters canvassed in papers in recent days in Australia

concerning the unauthorised release of confidential information was the subject of much general and considered

discussion among foreign ministers from across the world. And I'm sure that discussion will continue into the period


Over to you folks.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, has our relationship been - with China been damaged by your brutal realism?

KEVIN RUDD: I think our posture towards China has been consistent over many years. And our posture towards China

is pretty basic. It says that we have an extensive economic relationship, we're engaged in a range of initiatives aimed

at introducing China more and more to the regions and the world's multilateral decision-making institutions, and at the

same time, we've also been very plain with our Chinese friends over the last three years that, where we have a

disagreement, that we will make that disagreement very plain - and be firm about standing for our values and our


This is the sort of balanced policy towards China which I have long supported. You have heard me speak on this many

times in the past. And that continues into the future.

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It's a robust relationship. And diplomacy is a robust business. Sometimes there are agreements - and sometimes there

are disagreements.

That's life. And that's normal.

QUESTION: And how robust have you been suggesting…

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, have you been…

KEVIN RUDD: Sorry, this one here.

QUESTION: When the cable suggested that you said that diplomacy first - and if necessary force may need to be

deployed - what sort of force are you talking about?

KEVIN RUDD: Well the first thing I'd say Sam is that consistent with what the Government has said up until now, and

into the future, we won't be commenting on either the content or the accuracy of any of these unauthorised releases of

classified information. And the reason for that is one of principle. And that is that the whole business of diplomacy - and

the confidentiality of diplomatic communications of diplomatic documents - is supposed to be maintained as such. That

is confidential.

And that's the way in which we actually conduct business around the world.

In terms of our relationship separately with China can I just say, all along, that we believe that we have a huge number

of interests in China. We prosecute those successfully through a bilateral relationship. And from time to time difficulties


You've seen those over the last 12 months in a range of areas. We deal with those as they arise. We're also very clear

about the fact that the job of Australian foreign policy and security policy is to make provision for the long-term defence

of Australia's national security interests, as do all nation states.

The business of diplomacy is not just to roll over and have your tummy tickled from time to time by the Chinese or

anybody else. The business of diplomacy is to be firm about your national interests and to prosecute them accordingly.

As we've done in the past, as I will be doing in the future as Foreign Minister of Australia.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd - have you been in touch with your Chinese counterparts today to talk about this leaked

document, and talk about Australia's relationship?

KEVIN RUDD: No, and nor do I intend to. The reason is that this is part and parcel of the business of the relations

between states. So I go back to something I said before - having just been to three international gatherings over the

last five days, let me tell you there's been a lot of conversations with Hillary, and two of those gatherings where she's

attended, that's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, lot of conversations between foreign ministers. And of course it's

important to put these developments here in Australia in a broader global context as well, and the fact that these are

discussions legitimately recurring right around the world right at the moment…

QUESTION: Minister, do you…


QUESTION: … pretty clear from the timing of these cables that you're going to star in a lot of them.

KEVIN RUDD: [Laughs] What do you know that I don't know mate.

QUESTION: Well I'm just thinking the few that covered you were the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader and a

prominent individual - a little bit more prominent than you are now, but not much. But you have used…

KEVIN RUDD: That's nice.

Thanks Mark. I appreciate that. I'll just shrink a little bit.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to the Prime Minister too so she's forewarned about the nature of the discussions you

had with the US Ambassador and with the Secretary of the State over that period and what might become public over

the next few weeks?

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KEVIN RUDD: Well first of all on the whole question of unauthorised release of classified documents worldwide, there's

a task force headed centrally by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. We're working fully with that as the

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and have been doing so for some time.

Secondly, I just got back from Dubai and Bahrain and central Asia literally this morning.

I've had a quick conversation with the Prime Minister just now indicating I was coming out to talk to you good folk here.

And its cabinet has been meeting.

QUESTION: Minister, you've described rocky periods with China happening…

KEVIN RUDD: Could I answer…

QUESTION: Will you brief here then on what…

KEVIN RUDD: Oh, see, on the whole question of, shall we say, what's to come, I mean I think we should all just get

used to the fact that with - what the reports are, a quarter of a million documents out there, and a number dealing with

Australia, that you're going to see a lot of this sort of stuff roll out over a period of time. The truth of the matter is that

we the Australian Government do not know precisely what.

That lies very much in the hands of our good friends in the United States. This is a position which friends, partners,

allies, and others find themselves in with the government of the United States right now, but the key challenge is to get

on with the business of day to day diplomacy, get on with dealing with the challenges we all face, and I think that's the

resolve of most governments at this time.

QUESTION: Minister, do you think those rocky periods in relations with China are getting more frequent with China's

growing clout in the world?

KEVIN RUDD: Well it's interesting that when you roll around the world - and talk to foreign minister's from our region -

and in Africa and in Europe and right across Asia, it's quite plain that the rise of China presents new challenges and

opportunities for all countries.

You've heard me talk about this many times before - that is, that it's a new regional and global happening. All countries

are adjusting and adapting to this phenomenon, as we are to the rise of India as well.

It's normal.

QUESTION: Is it getting more difficult?

KEVIN RUDD: Well when you've got changes in the centre of, let's call it, strategic gravity in the world from Europe,

heading towards Asia for this century, the 21st century, with China playing such a role in the middle of it, of course

these present new challenges. But I think it's well within our wit and wisdom to handle these things, and that's why what

we continue to do on a bilateral basis - and on a multilateral basis - we'll continue to do so in the future.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, considering…

KEVIN RUDD: Sorry, over here.

QUESTION: Thank you Mr Rudd. Considering that change in gravity, if China refuses international overtures to bring it

into the global community, should force be used?

KEVIN RUDD: Look - when I was recently in Beijing, I spoke at some length about ways in which the western world

can more properly engage with China. One is - it seems to be in the western world we have these two standard

stereotypes, either kowtow or conflict. What I talked about in Beijing was there's a third way - and that's getting on with

the business of identifying those vast areas where we have common interest, and those areas where we still have

reached - still to reach a common point of view.

And this is exactly the sort of language which I used with Chinese audiences in China quite recently.

So therefore the job is to maximise our common interests, deal with those where we have different values and different

interest - that's what diplomacy is all about.

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It's normal to have disagreements in international relations - that's what diplomacy is there for, to deal with those

disagreements. Diplomacy is also there to maximise on the areas where we've got common interests.

QUESTION: Just on South Korea, we're hearing reports of live firing exercises from South Korea. Is that a provocative

act - and is it in line with the, I suppose, the restraint that you were after a couple of weeks ago.

KEVIN RUDD: Well the key thing here is to put the Republic of Korea's exercise routines into the context of what

normally occurs - the South Koreans have been conducting these sort of live-firing exercises for the last 40, 50 years

on their side of the parallel, okay. That's normal.

And given that we are one of those countries who participated in the events of 1950-53, it's also unsurprising that from

time to time we'll be called upon with other countries to monitor those events as well to make sure that, if and when

they occur, that they also occur within the normal remit of the arrangements which have been in place since the


What's of a different nature is when you've got people like the North Koreans thinking that it's smart, sensible, and

normal to deliver ordnance back across the 38th parallel and to sink the naval ships of South Korea - as they've done

in the last six months.

That's abnormal behaviour.

We are strongly supportive of the posture taken by the government, the Republic of Korea, and the leadership of

President Lee Myung-bak.

Put yourself in his position, and what they've had to cop for the last six months - frankly I think he's demonstrated great

leadership and great restraint. But these sorts of live firing exercises, they've been going on since Adam was a boy -

and they would be normal to be held into the future as well.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, are you potentially in a conflict of interest situation in that as Foreign Minister you need to

protect the interests of a foreign national Julian Assange, but at the same time I guess you're not exactly a beneficiary

of some of his activities?

KEVIN RUDD: Well can I just say what I've said when I've been asked this question in one form or another half a

dozen times in the last week by all your counterparts abroad is that this country, Australia, is a nation of laws, and we

have firm independent legal procedures.

Number one is, the Australian Federal Police conduct investigations to whether any element of the Australian criminal

law is breached. Two, if there is, then they make a reference to the Department of Public Prosecutions, and three,

actions then take place - at complete arms length from the political process. That is what Australia does.

Also, internationally, we cooperate through the normal agencies, like Interpol, in terms of breaches of legal jurisdictions

around the world, and again, that is taken on the basis of the advice of the professional agencies. Therefore there is no

role for politics in all this.

And I'd draw your attention to the fact that I've been saying this, over the last week or so, before anything happened to

be published in Australia. That will continue to be the position of the Australian Government, including myself.


QUESTION: Have you received any briefings to date that he has breached any Australian law? Is there any

investigation by the AFP, or other parties, into whether he's breached any Australian law, and if he's arrested


KEVIN RUDD: I noticed a big if there, Sam.

QUESTION: What is the Australian Government going to do to help him? Do you have to provide him with consular


KEVIN RUDD: Well, we're a nation of laws. We act according to due process; and our due process is the one I've just

described before. Secondly, the relevant officer of the Commonwealth here is the Attorney-General. And the Attorney-

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General has made a clear statement that these matters lie with the Australian Federal Police, and the other agencies

I've just referred to. That's proper process.

And so it's not for us to comment on the legality or otherwise of any individual actions; it's for the proper investigatory

and prosecutorial bodies to do that. And that's what's happening in Australia, as I've said consistently abroad.

And - many countries in the Middle East, where you've got foreign ministers around the place, and heads of

government, all of whom have been the subject of rich and varied commentary in recent days. And when I'm asked this

question about an Australian national my consistent response is, we're a nation of laws, here are the procedures, they

are those which will be applied, at complete arms length from the political arm of government.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, was any part of the briefing that you gave to Richard Woolcott, your special envoy in the APC, is

that he should talk to other leaders in the region, that part of the aim was to contain China?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, first of all, I will not go either the content or the accuracy of material which has been the subject of

unauthorised release, which contained diplomatic communications between governments.

On the diplomacy engaged by our special representative, Richard Woolcott - first class representative of Australia -

what Dick was tasked to do was to engage governments across the region in how you build greater multilateral

cooperation within our region so that you can deal with conflicts when they arise.

Now obviously we would seek to engage the views of China and all states in that process, which we did. I think what is

good, from an Australian national interest point of view, is that - with the recent expansion of the East Asia Summit -

you see a framework emerge for that sort of multilateral institution to be built and developed and used into the future.

So why is that in everyone's interests, including China's? So that when issues arise you have a buffer, through

institutions like that, where they can be dealt with by all concerned states. Rather than become something the basis of

difficult, shall I say, bilateral tensions between one government and another. That causes all sorts of problems from

time to time.

Sorry, mate.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, the relationship with China is very complex; they underpin our economy in many ways. There

are also filtering through, going back to the White Paper and looking at documents like this particular cable, there are

serious security concerns about the growth of the Chinese military.

What is your view of the likelihood of China and the United States being involved in an armed conflict at some stage in

the future?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, again, I won't go to any of the content, or the accuracy, of diplomatic communications. On the

general question you raise, though, about China's role in the world, and increases in its military expenditure, and

regional responses to that, and the - let's call it the military relationship with the United States - I believe it's in the

overwhelming interests of both countries, the US and China, for there to be a peaceful future.

Why? Because China's national interests lie in underpinning its long-term prosperity and growth through continued

stability in the Asia-Pacific region; now that also is the interest of the United States.

What we're on about, and other countries in the region, is how do you prevent the possibility of conflict arising in the

future, from, let's call it, the politics of misperception. And that is why you start to build institutions which are capable of

providing a buffer around some of the harder-edged security relationships of our region.

I said this recently in a conference in the Middle East, when I was asked about related questions. Here in East Asia we

have the centre of strategic gravity moving to our region for the twenty-first century. Yet we have a series of security

relationships which are almost nineteenth century in nature; that is, unresolved, large-scale territorial issues between


Therefore, why did we put such huge effort, in the last three years, into building institutions? To take some of the edge

off that, in order to build more of a sense of community, and culture of security cooperation. Now within that there's

always going to be hard-edged questions of national security, as well; and I go back to what I said about Australia.

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Our view is, let's punt for peace. Let's get in there behind it. Let's build the institutions which make it inevitable for our

future. But we'll always be mindful of our core responsibility, as the Government of Australia, to make provisions for this

nation's national security interests, its territorial integrity, its political sovereignty, because that is the sovereign and

solemn responsibility of any elected government of this country, including this one.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, do you expect to get a heads up from Hillary Clinton about...

KEVIN RUDD: Sorry. One from you the one from you, then I'd better zip.

QUESTION: Do you expect to get a heads up from Hillary Clinton about any further cables coming out, and the

contents of those cables?

KEVIN RUDD: I think - the situation's as I described in answer to a, I think a question put by Mark before.

When the United States is dealing with a quarter of a million such documents there's a fair old load in the in-tray of the

State Department at the moment, in terms of sorting these things through. Therefore, I think these unauthorised

releases can occur anytime, and without necessarily a prior warning from the Government of the United States.

That's not just an Australian experience, that's an experience of governments right around the world at the moment -

having spoken with many folk in my position in recent days.

I go back, though, to why do we have confidentiality of these diplomatic communications? That's the business of

diplomacy. If you could solve all the world's problems in a public forum, that's terrific. But guess what? It doesn't

happen that way. That's why you've got confidentiality of diplomatic communications, to deal with some of these

intractable problems.

Last question.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, just on that question. Do you think WikiLeaks will have a chilling effect on diplomacy, and, you

know, back-room talks.

KEVIN RUDD: I think it's having a focusing effect.

QUESTION: As far as, you know, making people more cautious, and making diplomacy [indistinct]?

KEVIN RUDD: I think foreign ministers around the world, from countries of all sorts of political traditions, are scratching

their heads about this one at the moment - I'm just being frank with you - and particularly when, if we are dealing with

diplomatic communications the content of which, if we are to be consistent with our profession, we then don't comment


At the same time this has created real difficulties in various other parts of the world. Let's just put all this in a bit of

context. You've had recent reports concerning - heads of government have been accused of corruption, being

associated with the Mafia, been urging the United States to go to war against particular countries. I mean this has been

happening in recent times. And without commenting, again, on the content or accuracy of any of those reports, it does

create a separate and new dynamic.

Now, what's the challenge for all of us? I was actually asked this question in Bahrain yesterday - what now happens? I

think, rule number one for our friends in the United States is how do you tighten things up a bit? I think that's a fair old


REPORTER: Security [indistinct]

KEVIN RUDD: Well, it's just - you know, maybe two million or so people having access to this stuff is a bit of a


REPORTER: It's not the Lady Gaga CD.

KEVIN RUDD: The - that could be a bit of a problem.

But secondly, I reckon, what I believe to be the professional challenge for all of us, is to get on with the business,

because all the big challenges we're dealing with haven't gone away.

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I had a question before about the Korean Peninsula, that is real, and live, and contemporary. And diplomacy, and the

business of diplomacy, is underway, as we speak, on that. And if diplomacy gets it wrong on that then we all pay a very

big price.

So these challenges don't just go into suspended animation while we work our way through this stuff. So my answer, in

Bahrain, as it is here today, is all of us to get on with the business, and not to become fundamentally side-tracked by all

of this.

But there are deep lessons, in terms of providing proper protection for such a large volume of diplomatic documents.

And having said all that, folks, you've got to zip, because it's getting close to news time, and I've got to zip.


REPORTERS: Thank you.


Media inquiries

Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500 ■

DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555 ■

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