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US to Australia: support the defense of Taiwan

Saturday, August 18, 2001

AFP in Sydney

The United States expects Australian troops to die alongside American servicemen in any future conflict with China over Taiwan, a senior US State Department official said yesterday.

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Australia was obliged to commit troops to any military conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

Mr Armitage, visiting Australia for talks, also threatened a backlash from Washington if Canberra failed to support the US in any future Asian conflict.

And he signalled that Washington hoped to persuade Japan to enter an enhanced security arrangement, bolstering the presence of the US military throughout Asia and the Middle East.

"I am not sure all of our friends here in Australia understand the significance of the alliance to Americans," he said. "It is not a matter of political convenience or of economic interaction . . . for us an alliance is an obligation, if necessary, to fight and die for each other."

"We are talking on the US side [of] our sons and daughters fighting and dying if Australia comes under attack and, by the way, we are talking about Australian sons and daughters who would be willing to sacrifice their lives to help defend the United States.

"That is what an alliance means and when you think in those terms . . . you realise this is a very special and indeed potent confidence-building measure."

Mr Armitage, visiting Australia just weeks after the departure of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, also issued a blunt warning to Canberra, saying it was in Australia's interests to join the US in defending Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Beijing was stung during Mr Powell's Australian visit late last month by suggestions that Washington was sponsoring closer security ties between itself, Australia, Japan and South Korea as a means of containing China's sphere of influence in the region.

When quizzed about tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, Mr Armitage said any US defence of the island would be in Australia's interests. "I think the overwhelming view in the United States is, it is hard to imagine a military action of any sort here by the United States which wouldn't in large measure also be in Australia's interest," he said.