- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2001

U.S. and Australian officials talked yesterday about closer military cooperation among themselves, Japan and South Korea as a counterweight to China's growing military power, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said.
Mr. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were in Canberra for annual security talks with the conservative-led Australian government, one of the few to wholeheartedly support the United States on missile defense and opposition to the Kyoto protocol on climate change.
Both American officials told a U.S. Embassy news conference that they hoped China would evolve peacefully.
But asked about coordinating separate U.S. alliances with Australia, Japan and South Korea, Mr. Powell told reporters: "We just began speaking about that today.
"There might be a need for us to seek opportunities to come together and talk more often. So, yes, we've talked about that, but not in the form of some formal kind of new organization."
Mr. Powell said the United States "is a Pacific nation, has been a Pacific nation and will remain engaged in this region politically, diplomatically and with the presence of our military forces."
"Let there be no doubt about that. Don 's and my presence here today, I think, is solid evidence for that."
The United States has 96,000 troops in East Asia, mainly in Japan and South Korea, and maintains a new fleet service facility in Singapore after losing huge air and naval bases in the Philippines around 1990.
The United States has beefed up its use of Australian military sites for training.
Any new merger of the three U.S. alliances in the Pacific would not be tied with a formal military pact, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said following talks with Mr. Powell.
"We wouldn't want new architecture in East Asia which would be an attempt to kind of replicate NATO," he said. He said he had spoken with Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka about holding an "informal dialogue" among the U.S. allies.
Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Powell took pains to parry implications by journalists that the American chiefs of the departments of Defense and State were at odds over China and other policies.
"Colin Powell and I talk every day and meet several times a week, and I don't know that there are differences between us," said Mr. Rumsfeld.
"My personal view is that the People's Republic of China's future is not yet written, that they are evolving. And we certainly hope it evolves in a peaceful and constructive way."
Mr. Powell said that with "engagement," the United States could "move in the right direction."
"At the same time we have to be strong. We have not to be naive. Obviously, I come at it from a foreign-policy perspective and the secretary from a defense perspective. But there is no real space between us as suggested."
When a reporter continued to seek differences between Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Powell on China policy, the defense secretary asked the journalist: "Are you trying to find some daylight between Colin and me?"
Mr. Powell interjected: "Yes."
Mr. Rumsfeld quipped: "Well, except for those few cases where Colin is still learning."
Mr. Powell's initial attempt to continue the Clinton administration's policies toward North Korea were abruptly halted by President Bush, who insisted on a complete review before renewing talks with Pyongyang.
Mr. Powell yesterday said he was open to renewing talks with the North and "I want to keep the ball in their court."
He said he had asked Russia to urge North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who visits Moscow later this week, to pay a return visit to South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in Seoul and to advance Korean peninsula peace talks.
A North Korean diplomat in New York, however, told The Washington Times last week that "the ball is in the United States' court."
On his flight to Australia from talks in South Korea, China and Vietnam, Mr. Powell said he had dropped the term "strategic competitor" as a description of China.
He said the Clinton administration had called China a "strategic partner" but he felt that was "a little bit too strong a statement for an emerging relationship with a country that does not really share our value system entirely." Mr. Powell said he had adopted the term "strategic competitor I didn't mean that in a warlike sense."
Mr. Powell said he has "rediscovered that the relationship is so complex with so many different elements to it that it is probably wiser not to capture it with a single term or a single cliche."
During talks in Beijing last week, Mr. Powell said, he had a "good exchange of views" a diplomatic phrase that generally suggests disagreements.
The most difficult issue between the two countries is Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province that eventually must unify with the mainland peacefully or otherwise. Mr. Bush has said he would defend Taiwan against an attempt to forcefully append it to China.
Mr. Powell said he now has a better understanding of the "one-China policy as they see it" and has explained to them "our one-China policy understanding." The policies evidently differ.
However, he said the Chinese had "reinforced their view that America does belong in the Asia-Pacific region and they welcome an American presence in the Asia-Pacific region as a stabilizing factor."
China is "very much looking forward to President Bush's visit" in October, Mr. Powell said.

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