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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4369

Mr SNEDDEN - I ask the Prime Minister: Did the Chinese Premier, Chou En-lai, tell him that the United States of America should not withdraw its forces hurriedly from South East Asia and the Western Pacific? Did the Chinese leader say that Washington would bear a heavy responsibility for the consequences of rapid disengagement from the area in the encouragement of Russian extension of influence? Is it not true that, by running down our defence forces, Australia is encouraging American withdrawal from the region, because we are seen to be irresponsible in not providing adequately for our own defence capacity, contrary to the concept of the Guam Doctrine?

Mr WHITLAM - It is clear that the first part of the right honourable gentleman's question is based on a newspaper report. I do not refute, endorse or qualify reports of this nature. I have already said all that I intend to say or believe proper to say about the conversations I had with Premier Chou En-lai. It quite clearly would be impracticable to give an answer to a question without notice on matters which we discussed in 20 hours together, over half that time in formal session across the table. It is enough for me to say that 1 welcome the continuing detente in relations between China and the United States and the continuing detente between each of those countries and some others. The other part of the right honourable gentleman's question alleged that there was a running down in Australian forces. That is far from the case. The Australian forces are in better heart and shape than they have ever been in peacetime. We have cut away some of the fat; we have built up- the muscle.

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