(At the Request of Mr. Reid, the Following Statement Was Ordered to be Printed in the Record.) -- (Senate - April 01, 2008)
VISIT OF AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD
Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I would like to extend my sincere welcome to the Honorable Kevin Rudd, who is making his first trip to the United States as the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia. This is a historic visit during a time of transition for both our nations.
Yesterday, I spoke with Prime Minister Rudd and congratulated him on his election as the first Labor Party Prime Minister in 11 years. I assured him of my personal commitment to maintaining a strong bilateral relationship between our nations in the years to come and discussed our common interest in advancing peace and prosperity for the people of the United States, Australia, and the world.
The alliance between the United States and Australia is deep and strong and has stood the test of changing times. Labor Party leader John Curtain, along with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established the United States-Australia alliance in 1942. Prime Minister Rudd's trip affirms the strategic value of this relationship and the friendship between our people, which has endured across generations and administrations.
The United States-Australia alliance is a cornerstone of security and prosperity both in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. Our two nations are bound by shared interests, shared values, and a common heritage--bonds that were forged in all major wars the United States was involved in during the 20th century, a distinction unique to Australia. And, as a new century dawns, we are beginning to write a new and important chapter in the bilateral relationship.
Indeed, during his first press conference the day after his election, Prime Minister Rudd reiterated his strong commitment to the United States-Australia alliance, a deep commitment to a partnership of equals that I share.
Like the United States, Australia is trans-Pacific in orientation, and for this reason our perspectives and perceptions about regional and global affairs are often tightly aligned. The United States benefits from an Australia that can act as a regional leader in East Asia but one with global interests and capabilities as well.
The Prime Minister's visit provides an opportunity for the people of America to express our deep appreciation for Australia's contributions in combating al-Qaida. We will never forget that following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Australia invoked the ANZUS treaty in support of the United States.
Australia has deployed some 1,000 troops in Afghanistan to the International Security Assistance Force, as well as about 1,500 combat and support troops in Iraq. Prime Minister Rudd has also demonstrated real leadership in tackling the critical global challenge of climate change. Within a few weeks of assuming office, the Prime Minister successfully pushed for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol as one of the first official acts of his administration. He personally led Australia's delegation to Bali, Indonesia, to participate in international negotiations on a post-Kyoto protocol.
In Asia, the quality of our alliance and scope of our diplomatic partnership shine brightly. We both face a rapidly evolving security order defined by traditional and nontraditional security problems. These include changing regional power dynamics and rivalries, territorial disputes, resource competition, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, failed states, environmental degradation, and pandemic diseases. Managing this complex blend of security challenges requires leveraging both bilateral and multilateral mechanisms.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, organization, in which Australia took the lead in creating in 1989, has advanced economic liberalization and integration throughout the Asia-Pacific. Australia's involvement in the East Asia Summit since its inception is a welcome development. The Trilateral Security Dialogue among the United States, Australia, and Japan has become an important channel for coordinating policy and combining capabilities in addressing emerging security challenges in the Asia-Pacific.
As the security order in Asia evolves, Australian participation, leadership, and defense of our common values and interests are critical to building open, inclusive, transparent, and flexible regional structures and arrangements. The new arrangements cannot replace America's bilateral alliances--alliances which are not directed at any one nation but which have served as the foundation for peace and stability in Asia for nearly half a century. But these new mechanisms, building on our traditional alliances, can help sustain the conditions for Asia's peace and prosperity to continue.
Prime Minister Rudd brings special skills and experiences to this new chapter in United States-Australia relations. His progressive domestic policy agenda, innovative and realistic diplomacy, and optimistic vision enrich the already solid base of our bilateral dialogue, reminding us that we can accomplish more when we listen to our friends and allies than when we lecture them.
Prime Minister Rudd's visit is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the United States-Australia alliance and to our broader bilateral relationship. America's foreign policy, national security and economic interests gain greatly from the deep ties with our friends down under.