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Howard's regional pre-emption doctrine impedes progress on Australian - ASEAN relations.

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KEVIN RUDD M.P. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security 26 November 2004


It is clear today that John Howard has erected a road block to Australia considering signing a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN.

This occurs on the eve of Mr Howard visiting Vientiane for the first ever ASEAN-Australia Summit.

Mr Howard says Australia’s relations with ASEAN don’t need this Treaty. But not only have all ten members of ASEAN signed it, ASEAN’s other major summit partners - China, India, Pakistan and Japan - have all signed it as well.

The key to Mr Howard’s objection is Article 10 of the Treaty which states that parties shall not participate in “any activity which shall constitute a threat to the political and economic stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of another High Contracting Party”.

Mr Howard is desperately trying to save face from his doctrine of regional military pre-emption, unilaterally announced in December 2002, when he reserved the right to launch pre-emptive strikes against the sovereign territory of our neighbours.

Labor has argued for two years that Australia’s national security interests demand Mr Howard repudiate his doctrine of pre-emption. The existence of that doctrine has created an impediment to the development of a Comprehensive Regional Counter Terrorism Strategy with our neighbours in South East Asia.

It now also represents a potential political obstacle in the development of our broader political economic and security relationship with ASEAN.

And if Mr Howard thinks signing such a treaty is incompatible with being an ally of the United States, he would be asserting that Japan is not a good ally of the United States - given that Tokyo signed the Treaty earlier this year.

Australia’s national security and regional economic interests require Mr Howard to swallow his pride, admit he was wrong and embrace the region.

Regrettably after eight years in office Mr Howard has become too arrogant to do that.


Media contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823