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Foreign Minister confirms Australia will sign Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.

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Wednesday 27 July 2005

Foreign Minister confirms Australia will sign Treaty of Amity and Cooperation


TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Government has done an about face and now sa ys it will sign the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. 


There's been long standing opposition to it but the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has announced Australia will sign up and in return will get a seat at the table at the East Asian Summit. 


It's unclear about where the treaty leaves Australia's policy on pre-emptive strikes but Mr Downer says it's a breakthrough for Australia to be admitted and it's the beginning of the evolution of an East Asian community. 


The first East Asian summit will be held in Malaysia in December where China, Japan, India, Korea, Australia and New Zealand as well as the 10 ASEAN nations, will attend. 


Last night, Mr Downer was in Bangkok on his way to the ASEAN meeting in Laos. He spoke to Louise Yaxley. 


ALEXANDER DOWNER: The big thing is that we've worked very hard over the last, really, 7 or 8 months to try to get Australia a place at the table because the East Asia summit could be a very important component of building an East Asian community, and for Australia to be part of that right at the beginning is an enormously important development for Australian diplomacy. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: How much resistance has there been and what countries have been putting up the strongest arguments against Australia becoming a member of that summit? 


ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I think there has been not resistance but reservation and questioning. There have been different points of view about how the East Asian summit process and emerging East Asian community could progress. 


A few months ago at Sibu in the Philippines there was an informal meeting of foreign ministers which decided that it would establish 3 criteria for participation in the East Asia summit and one of those criteria was that members of it should all sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation which we've eventually decided that we will do. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Marty Natalegawa from Indonesia says that it means Australia's renounced its threat to conduct pre-emptive strikes in the region. Is he right? 


ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well look, under the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation as well as under our obligations and commitments as expressed through the UN charter, we of course have a right to self-defence in the UN charte.  


But I'm not sure whether this debate about pre-emption is very clear-cut, I mean in this one respect, and that is we're not planning to launch attacks against any of our neighbours obviously and if there were to be an attack planned by some group or other, some terrorist group in one of our neighbouring countries, we'd obviously expect that country to deal with that attack and make sure that it didn't take place. 


I mean, that's just common sense. Short of there being some kind of completed unexpected and radical revolution in some country which I'm sure isn't going to happen and them to declare hostile intent towards Australia, I don't think this debate really means very much. 


TONY EASTLEY: The Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.