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Australia, the ANZUS Alliance and U.S. Rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific By Carlyle A. Thayer

C3S Paper No. 0080/ 2015


Introduction

This paper discusses Australia’s alliance with the United Statesand U.S. rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific, announced in 2012, with a specific focus on events after September 13, 2013 when the Liberal-National Coalition Government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott was elected to office.

The central argument of this paper is that with or without the U.S. policy of rebalancing, Australia would have continued to support U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific. There is widespread bipartisan and public support in Australia for Australia’s alliance with the United States because it is viewed as being in Australia’s national interest. The U.S. alliance and U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific are inextricably connected to Australia’s national security.

The U.S.-Australia alliance predates the rebalancing strategy by sixty-four years. The alliance has evolved overtime into a broad-based and deep political, diplomatic, economic, cultural and defence relationship that has extended its reach from ‘the Pacific’ to the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region as well as globally. In many respects, the U.S. strategy of rebalancing represents‘business as usual’ from an Australian perspective (Thayer 2014). According to the former Deputy Secretary for Strategy, Australian Department of Defence, ‘the United States’ rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has been more prominent in Australia in the form of plans to expand defence cooperation between the two countries under an already close alliance relationship’ (Jennings 2013, 38).

The Abbott Government inherited a strong commitment to U.S. rebalancing passed on by the Labor Government under Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd (December 3, 2007-June 24 2010 and June 27, 2013-September 13, 2013) and Julia Gillard (June 24 2010-June 27, 2013).

This paper is divided into two parts and a conclusion. Part 1 discusses the purposes of the U.S.-Australia alliance, the benefits that Australia derives from it and the expanding geographic scope of the alliance up to 2013. Part 2 reviews developments under the government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Part 1 U.S.-Australia Alliance

Australia’s alliance with the United States is based on a treaty signed on September 1, 1951. This document is formally titled the Security Treaty Between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America but is more widely referred to as the ANZUS Treaty. The operative clauses of this treaty state:

Article IV

Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

Article V

For the purpose of Article IV, an armed attack on any of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of any of the Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.

East Asian economic growth, the creation of regional multinational economic and security institutions, regional integration and China’s rise have rendered the term ‘the Pacific Area somewhat ambiguous if notarchaic. Twice in recent history Australian ministers publicly questioned whether ANZUS committed Australia to assist the United States in ‘out of area’ conflicts (Bisley and Taylor 2014: 5, 15-18). In August 2004, for example, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer stated that he did not think ANZUS would require Australia to assist the U.S. in a mainland China-Taiwan contingency. In June 2014, Defence Minister DavidJohnson voiced the view that ANZUS would not commit Australia to a conflict involving U.S. forces supporting Japan in a conflict with China over the Senkaku islands.[1] In the current strategic context the terms Indo-Pacific and Indo-Asia Pacific are coming into vogue by U.S. and Australian analysts (Mahnken 2013).

Australia derives at least five major benefits from the ANZUS Treaty (Edwards 2005 3-4):[2]

  1. Security guarantee that the United States would come to Australia’s aid in the event of a major strategic threat;

  2. Exceptional access to high-level American policy-makers on political, diplomatic and military affairs;

  3. Privileged access to the findings, assessments and evaluations of the American intelligence community;

  4. Privileged access to advanced defence-related science and technology; and

  5. Economic benefits of special access to the American market under the Free Trade Agreement (which came into force in January 2005).

In the 1980s New Zealand was excluded from the ANZUS ministerial talks because of its non-nuclear domestic policy. The tripartite ministerial talks gave way to bilateral ministerial discussions between Australia and the United States known as AUSMIN. In 1989 Australia was designated a ‘major non-NATO ally’ by the U.S. Congress under the terms of the Nunn Amendment to Title 10 (Armed Forces) of the United States Code. This resulted in special cooperation between the United States and Australia in defence research and development.  Further benefits were added in 1996 when Section 2321K was included in Title 22 (Foreign Relations) of the U.S. Code. This provided Australia with the same exemptions to the U.S. Arms Export Control Act that were given to members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

In September 2011, Prime Minister John Howard paid an official visit to Washington to mark the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty. He was physically present in Washington when the terrorist attacks on The Pentagon and the Twin Towers in New York City took place on September 11. On return to Australia, Prime Minister Howard, with support from the Opposition, led the Parliament to formally invoke the ANZUS Treaty for the first time on September 14, 2001.

Australia became one of the main allies in the U.S.-led Global War on Terrorism. It dispatched military forces to Afghanistan in 2001-02 and joined the United States and United Kingdom in the Iraq War in 2003. As historian Peter Edwards has noted Australia’s defence emphasis shifted from ‘defence of Australia’ to the ‘defence of Australian interests and values.’

On March 9, 2011, Prime Minister Julia Gillard marked the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty by formally addressing the U.S. Congress. She summed up Australia’s view of the alliance in these words:

You have an ally in Australia. An ally for war and peace.An ally for hardship and prosperity. An ally for the sixty years past and Australia is an ally for all the years to come. Geography and history alone could never explain the strength of the commitment between us. Rather, our values are shared and our people are friends. This is the heart of our alliance…

In the decades since [the ANZUS Treaty was signed], we have stuck together. In every major conflict. From Korea and Vietnam to the conflicts in the Gulf. Your darkest days since Pearl Harbour were ten years ago in Washington and New York. And we were with you…

Australia will stand firm with our ally the United States [in Afghanistan]. Our friends understand this. Our enemies understand this too.

In sum, the ANZUS Treaty was expanded in geographic scope from ‘the Pacific Area’ to a global alliance. This is reflected in the joint communiqués issued after the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) that contain a section on global issues and challenges. AUSMIN talks include the respective foreign minister/secretary of state and defence ministers of the two countries.

From the very start of the Obama Administration (January 2009) it was clear that the United States was going to withdraw from Iraq, wind down its military presence in Afghanistan, and focus more on the Asia-Pacific. By late 2011 Obama Administration officials brought all the strands of U.S. engagement with the Asia-Pacific together in an overarching conceptual framework (Clinton 2011, 56-63).From Australia’s perspective, the U.S. policy of rebalancing dates from November 16-17, 2011 when President Obama visited Australia.

On November 16, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and President Obama announced two force posture initiatives – the rotational deployment of U.S. Marines to Darwin and northern Australia and closer cooperation between the Royal Australian Air Force and the U.S. Air Force to enable the increased rotation of U.S aircraft in northern Australia.[3]

On November 17, President Obama gave an historic address to a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament.In his speech President Obama revealed that his Administration had inaugurated a review to identify the United States’ most important strategic interests to guide defence policy and spending in the next decade. According to President Obama (2011):

As President, I’ve therefore made a deliberate and strategic decision – as a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long term role in shaping this region and its future, by upholding core principles and in close partnership with allies and friends…

As we end today’s wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and mission in the Asia Pacific a top priority. As a result of, reduction in U.S. defence spending will not – I repeat, will not – come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific.[4]

The word ‘rebalance’ was not used in Obama’s address. However in January 2012 the U.S. Department of Defense issued new strategic guidance that formally identified rebalancing as a key U.S. priority. According to Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for the 21st Century (p. 2):

U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. Our relationships with Asian allies and key partners are critical to the future stability and growth of the region. We will emphasize our existing alliances, which provide a vital foundation for Asia-Pacific security. We will also expand our networks of cooperation with emerging partners throughout the Asia-Pacific to ensure collective capability and capacity for securing common interests [emphasis in original].

The Australian Labor Party government under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd both supported and committed resources to the U.S. strategy of rebalancing. The first ministerial consultations to take place after the formal announcement of the rebalancing strategy took place in Perth, Western Australia on November 14, 2012. In the very first paragraph of the customary Joint Communiqué the ministers reaffirmed  ‘the value the Australia-United States alliance in helping to shape the security and prosperity of the Asia Pacific, while also contributing to global security, good governance and the rule of law.’

The Joint Communiqué now referred to President Obama’s speech to the Australian Parliament ‘as part of a rebalance to the Asia Pacific.’ Indeed the very first point in the Joint Communiqué was headed ‘Protect and promote Asia Pacific Security.’ This section identified eleven country-specific initiatives that the U.S. and Australia would carry out, including working with Japan through the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue and by conducting trilateral defence exercises ‘to enhance security through air, land and maritime cooperation.’

Point two of the Joint Communiqué focused on support for regional dialogue through the following multilateral mechanisms: East Asia Summit, Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (ASEAN Regional Forum or ARF) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus). Specifically the U.S. and Australia would support efforts by the ASEAN and China to develop a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

With respect of bilateral defence cooperation, three major areas of cooperation were discussed. The first concerned U.S. force posture initiatives agreed between Prime Minister Gillard and President Obama in November 2011. The Joint Communiqué ‘welcomed the success of the first rotation of US Marine Corps personnel to northern Australia, and looked forward to the next rotation in 2013.’ The rotation of U.S. Marines would be conducted in ‘an incremental and considered manner.’

The second area of cooperation comprised ‘enhanced aircraft cooperation’ through northern Australia and ‘potential opportunities for additional naval cooperation at a range of locations, including HMAS Stirling.’ However, the Joint Communiqué noted ‘all of these areas of cooperation would require substantial further study and additional decisions by both sides.’

The third area of defence cooperation focused on space. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on the relocation and establishment of jointly operated US C-Band space surveillance radar at the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station in Western Australia in 2014 and the future relocation of a highly advanced U.S. Space Surveillance Telescope to Australia. These new activities were undertaken under the auspices of the Space Situational Awareness Partnership agreed to at the 2010 AUSMIN.

The ministers discussed the possible establishment of a Combined Communications Gateway in Western Australia to provide greater access to the Wideband Global Satellite communications constellation under the auspices of the Military Satellite Communications Partnership Statement of Principles (2008).

In addition, the ministers agreed to:

  1. Step up implementation of the Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty to increase cooperation between U.S. and Australian defence industries and ‘enhance interoperability on joint operations and exercises.’

  2. Consult on the development of a phased adaptive approach to ballistic missile defence and develop a more detailed understanding of regional ballistic missile threats

  3. Increase whole-of-government participation in Talisman Sabre exercise with the participation of civilian agencies from both sides.[5]

Part 2 The U.S. Alliance Under the Government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott

There have been two AUSMIN meetings during the present term of the Abbott government. The first was held in Washington, D.C. on November 20, 2013 two months after the Liberal-National Coalition took office. A review of these ministerial meetings demonstrates the continuity in Australia’s alliance relations with the United States.

AUSMIN 2013

The AUSMIN 2013 Joint Communiqué noted that ‘the United States and Australia are committed to modernizing our Alliance by working together to support the U.S. rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region.’Once again the ministers placed priority on U.S. force posture initiatives; they signed a joint Statement of Principles related to the rotational presence of U.S. Marines in northern Australia. They also agreed that the rotation of U.S. Marines would be conducted ‘in a manner consistent with both countries’ regional security objectives, including the common goal of increasing practical cooperation between Australia and the United States and other regional countries,’ including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Both sides agreed to work towards the objective of rotating a full Marine Air Ground Task Force of 2,500 U.S. Marine Corps personnel and equipment, increased rotations of U.S. Air Force aircraft in northern Australia, and to examine future opportunities for naval cooperation. The ministers reiterated their 2012 commitment ‘to strengthen and regularize whole-of-government participation’ in Exercise Talisman Sabre with a view to undertake ‘post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction’ and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

Further, the ministers agreed:

to commence negotiations on a binding agreement to support future defense cooperation involving the U.S. rotational presence in northern Australia, including activities such as: joint and combined training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and combined exercises in Australian and multilateral engagement in the broader region.

The ministers reviewed cooperation in space activities highlighted in the AUSMIN 2012 Joint Communiqué and renewed their commitment to relocate U.S. C-Band space surveillance radar to Australia in 2014. The ministers also signed a Memorandum of Understanding governing the relocation and joint operation of a U.S. space surveillance telescope scheduled to begin functioning in 2016. The two sides pledged to complete the drafting of an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

The Joint Communiqué alsotouched upon joint cooperation in dealing with cyber and ballistic missile threats.

The ministers also addressed multilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Special stress was put on enhancing capacity to deal with natural disasters in light of the devastation inflicted on the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan.

The two sides stressed the importance of ASEAN’s central role in promoting peace and security in Southeast Asia and with working with Indonesia as a regional leader. The ministers reaffirmed support for the centrality of the Association of South East Asian nations (ASEAN), including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMMPlus), East Asia Summit (EAS) and the newly created Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF).

And the ministers once again encouraged ASEAN and China ‘to reach agreement on a substantive and meaningful Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as soon as possible.’

The ministers reaffirmed the importance of deepening cooperation with Japan through both the Trilateral Security Dialogue and the Security and Defence Cooperation Forum.[6]

AUSMIN 2013 also reflected the Obama Administration’s effort to emphasize the non-defence related aspect of the U.S. rebalancing strategy. The Joint Communiqué stressed the importance of economic development and integration. For example, the ministers pledged their support to ‘APEC [Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation] as the premier forum for advancing trade liberalization and a key forum for advancing economic integration across the region. The ministers also reaffirmed ‘their intent to conclude a high-standard and comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in 2013’ as a ‘potential pathway to an eventual Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.’

In the period before the next scheduled meeting of AUSMIN Australia’s Foreign Minister and Prime Minister made separate visits to Washington.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop Visits the U.S. (January 2014).

In January 2014 Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited Washington, New York and Chicago to meet with key U.S. government officials and American business partners. She also delivered the keynote address to the Alliance 21 flagship conference in Washington (Bishop 2014). In her opening remarks Bishop identified the United States as Australia’s most important partner.[7] She said:

And 63 years on, the Australia-US alliance remains the cornerstone of our national security.

Of course, our relationship is now as broad as it is long-standing. For example, the United States remains our single most important economic partner. When you combine two-way trade and investment, it stands at over $1 trillion.

Australia and the United States remain the closest of partners in the Asia-Pacific, each of us making our own distinctive contribution, each with our own relationships with other countries in the region.

In her address Minister Bishop spoke to five themes: (1) the Korean peninsula and nuclear proliferation; (2) how U.S.-Australia mutual engagement in the region strengthens Australia’s individual engagement; (3) the critical character of intelligence collection; (4) mutual counter-terrorism efforts; and (5) Afghanistan.

With respect to regional engagement, Bishop noted that with the entry of the U.S. into the East Asia Summit, ‘we can focus on strengthening it as a forum with a purpose – real capacity to discuss, manage and ultimately help the region resolve its security challenges.’ She noted that the U.S. and Australia were working together to ensure that tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the South China Sea as well as maritime security, marine environment protection and food security are regularly discussed by EAS leaders and foreign ministers.

Bishop offered Australia’s endorsement of the U.S. rebalancing as ‘timely’ and noted that Australia would play its part. She noted:

Australia’s hosting of rotational deployments of US military personnel not only reinforces our alliance, but makes direct and substantial contribution to the security of our region.

The movement of US Marines to Darwin as part of the US force posture review – offers an important opportunity to help work with regional partners, including on humanitarian and disaster relief challenges, which are all too prevalent in the Indo-Pacific.

As a partner of the rebalance, we encourage the US to continue to enhance partnerships with Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Vietnam, New Zealand and others.

Australia’s participation in the ‘five eyes’ intelligence community (along with the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand) became a point of controversy after Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing Australia’s role in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia.  Minister Bishop spoke directly to this and argued that,

I am confident that intelligence cooperation will remain one of the core elements of our alliance in the 21st century.

But we must be prepared to make the public case for the importance of this work, because the safety and security of our citizens depends on it.

The collection of intelligence by responsible, democratic governments is not discretionary; it is an imperative in discharging this fundamental duty to protect the safety of their people. In short, it saves lives.

Prime Minister Tony Abbot Visits Washington (June 2014)

Prime Minister Tony Abbott was originally scheduled to meet President Obama at the APEC Summit in Bali in October 2013; but due to domestic wrangling in America over funding for the federal government President Obama had to remain at home.

Prime Minister Abbott visited the United States in June 2014 and met with President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, General Martin Dempsey Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior officials including intelligence chiefs. On his return to Australia Abbott stopped off at the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.

The Obama-Abbott discussions touched on the emerging crisis in Syria and Iraq, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, climate change[8] and most importantly, concluding a legal agreement on the rotational presence of U.S. forces in Australia. This document provides a legal framework that codified cost sharing for new facilities that need to be built to accommodate an increased U.S. presence.

The Australia-U.S. force posture agreement provides for an increased U.S. rotational presence not only by U.S. Marines in Darwin but the U.S. Air Force in bases in the Northern Territory and the projected stationing of U.S. Navy ships at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia. At the time of Abbott’s visit there were an estimated 1,150 Marines in Australia. Under the new agreement provides for training exercises between Australian and U.S. forces.

The force posture agreement would allow for the deployment of U.S. forces elsewhere in Australia should special circumstances arise.  According to President Obama:

In addition to the marines that are now in Darwin and the rotations that have been established, we actually have arrived at additional agreements around force postures that will enhance bilateral cooperation between the militaries and give us additional reach throughout this very important part of the world.[9]

It is important to note that U.S. forces in Australia would train alongside not only Australian troops but with other regional forces. In October 2014, for example, for the first time China participated in a trilateral small-scale military exercise with Australia and the United States. Ten soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army joined with ten Australian soldiers and five U.S. Marines for a joint survival training exercise, KOWARI 14.[10]

In his discussions with President Obama Prime Minister Abbott did not make any commitment of Australian military personnel for Iraq but he did not rule it out either.

Prime Minister Abbott’s discussions with Secretary Chuck Hagel reportedly focused on the U.S. rebalance, Australia’s defence budget, and Japan’s role in regional security and tensions in the South China Sea. Iraq was not discussed.

AUSMIN 2014.

On August 12, 2014, Australia hosted the 29thannual AUSMIN meeting in Sydney.[11] The Joint Communiqué issued after the consultation highlighted the Force Posture Agreement between the United States and Australia that provided a legal and policy framework and financial principles for the implementation of the rotational presence of U.S. military forces in Australia. And, according to the Joint Communiqué ‘demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions and Australia’s firm support for the US rebalance.’ At the time of the 2014 AUSMIN meeting Australia hosted the third rotation of U.S. Marine Corps personnel.

In future its is expected that a fully-functioning U.S. Marine Air Ground Task Force of 2,500 will rotate in and out of northern Australia by 2020. The Task Force will conduct its own exercises supported by Australia, conduct combined exercises with Australia, and engage with regional states on both a bilateral and multilateral basis. According to Admiral Jonathan Greenert, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. ships and marines would only be in port for a few days at a time during the dry season. Most time would be spent conducting ‘joint forcible entry from the sea.’ The ships and marines would return to the United States during the wet season. Admiral Greenert also forecast that U.S. and Australian forces could jointly respond to a regional ‘hot spot’ if both parties agreed.[12]

Australia and the United States are in the process of extending Exercise Talisman Sabre to address not only humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission but post-conflict stabilization and construction operations as well.

The Joint Communiqué once again referred to on-going discussions for enhanced aircraft cooperation and ‘the potential for additional bilateral naval cooperation’. It was noted that ‘significant, wide-ranging series of port visits’ was planned for 2015. The ministers tasked defence officials ‘to develop practical options to enhance naval training in Australia and the region.’

References in the AUSMIN joint communiqués to increased U.S. aircraft presence in northern Australia (including B-52 bombers) and projected naval cooperation are a sign that costs are an issue. For example, it has been estimated that it will cost A$1.6 billion to build infrastructure to accommodate a full U.S. Marine Air Ground Task Force in Darwin.[13] Australia now spends 1.6 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on defence, the lowest level since 1938. The Abbott Government has promised to increase defence spending to 2 percent of GDP in line with economic growth in the next decade.[14] The lack of finance, for example, severely restricts proposals to homeport U.S. warships at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia where expensive modifications would have to be undertaken. The Abbott Government has been reluctant to fund the upgrading of defence facilities. Reportedly there has been some U.S. concern about Australia’s ‘free riding’ in defence cooperation.[15]

The ministers also gave their approval for continued cooperation in eleven specific areas:

  1. Continued links between their special forces.[16]

  2. Establishment of a joint working group ‘to examine potential Australian contributions to ballistic missile defence in the region.’[17]

  3. Continued strategic planning to develop common approaches to regional security challenges.

  4. Endorsed civilian participation in Exercise Talisman Sabre to strengthen capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and to incorporate ‘women, peace and security objectives into our combined planning.’

  5. Practical combined operations to enhance space surveillance and completing a draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

  6. Cooperation in defence science and technology including cyber, electronic warfare, hypersonics, integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies.

  7. Continued defence industry cooperation to ensure interoperability.

  8. Adherence to international law governing state conduct in cyberspace.

  9. Bilateral trade and investment leading to deepened economic integration.

  10. People-to-people ties such as the Australian-American Fulbright Commission.

  11. Innovation cooperation in energy, science, technology and health.

The Joint Communiqué addressed the linkages between the Asia-Pacific and Indian Oceans covered in earlier AUSMIN joint communiqués. Australia ‘expressed support for the United States’ role in underpinning the regions’ security, stability and prosperity.’

Once again ministers addressed the non-military aspects of the United States’ rebalancing strategy by recognising the importance of regional economic development and integration through completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and support for APEC.

With respect to the region’s security architecture, the ministers reiterated their view that the EAS was ‘the premier regional forum for dialogue and cooperation on the political, security, strategic and relevant economic challenges confronting the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.’

The ministers welcomed the constructive role played by the ARF and ADMM Plus. They pledged to ‘build confidence through maritime security and maritime domain awareness, non-proliferation and disarmament, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-terrorism, space and cyber security.  The ministers voiced support for increased cooperation between the ARF and ADMM Plus ‘to develop a regional strategic multi-year exercise plan to coordinate and improve the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities. And the ministers reaffirmed their support for the EAMF as an important regional forum for discussion of maritime issues.

Given the spike in regional tensions in 2014, the Joint Communiqué devoted two paragraphs to tensions in the East and South China Seas. They called for ‘respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce, and upholding freedom of navigation and overflight.’ The ministers called on claimant states ‘to refrain from actions that could increase tensions and to clarify and to pursue claims in accordance with international law.’ The ministers also called on claimants to effectively implement the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea by clarifying ‘what types of activities should be permissible, and what types of activities should be avoided in areas that are in dispute.’

The ministers also turned their attention to specific countries including Indonesia (presidential elections),[18] Thailand (transition to civilian rule), and Myanmar (constitutional reform, 2015 elections, inclusive political dialogue).

U.S. rebalancing has also led to the strengthening of trilateral defence cooperation between Australia, Japan and the U.S. as well as bilateral defence cooperation between Australia and Tokyo. Australia and the U.S. both support efforts by the Abe Government to remove restrictions on Japan’s participation in collective self-defence. A key element of trilateral cooperation is the integration of ballistic missile defence systems. Future cooperation could include the construction of conventional submarines based on Japanese designs and technology and U.S. weapon systems.[19]

The ministers welcomed efforts by the Abe government to permit Japan to undertake collective self-defence,’ and once again stressed the importance of the Trilateral Security Dialogue. The ministers ‘reaffirmed their commitment to building a positive and constructive relations with China, including by pursuing dialogue on strategic security issues and by expanding practical cooperation in support of their common interests… and respect for international law.’

The ministers welcomed China’s participation in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). And in a significant development, the ministers welcomed China’s participation in Exercise Kowari, an inaugural trilateral defence exercise to be held in Australia in October 2014.[20]

Recent Developments

Since the 2014 AUSMIN meeting there have been at least four major developments related to the ANZUS alliance.

First, Australia agreed to cooperate with the U.S. to assist the Iraqi government to meet the threat of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).[21] Australia initially committed 170 commandos and Special Forces troops to assist and advise Iraq’s Special Forces. Australia also dispatched a 600-strong contingent from the Royal Australian Air Force to Dubai, including Super Hornet fighter-bombers, an aerial refuelling tanker and Wedgetail command and control aircraft. This month Australia committed a 300-strong Army Training Team to Iraq for two years.[22]Australian forces will be joined by 143 New Zealand troops and instructors.[23]

Second, during President Obama’s visit to Australia to attend the G20 summit in Brisbane, he gave a speech to a local university in which he criticised the Australian government’s policy on climate change.[24]The president’s remarks were viewed widely as discourteous and embarrassing to his host, Prime Minister Tony Abbott. As noted above when the two leaders met at The White House in June they agreed to disagree.

Third, Australia has been put in the middle between China and the United States over Beijing’s proposal to establish and fund an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The United States reportedly lobbied and put political pressure on Australia not to join.[25] China has extended the deadline for foundation members to March 31st. Initially, the National Security Committee of Cabinet turned down a recommendation to join the AIIB on national security grounds. However, the recent decision by the British government to break ranks with the U.S. and join the AIIB likely has seen other European states follow suit.[26] The most recent reports suggest Prime Minister Abbott is reconsidering his earlier decision.[27] Australia has been critical of the U.S. Congress for not voting to reform the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to give increased voting rights to China and other emerging economies. The failure to reform the IMF contributed to China’s decision to set up the AIIB

Fourth, Australia and the United States are still pursuing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). Australia’s Minister for Trade, Andrew Robb, is pushing strongly for greater access to the U.S. market for sugar exports that were previously excluded from the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement signed in 2005. American sugar growers have lobbied and secured special protection. If TPP negotiations are concluded by May the TPP Agreement likely will be examined critically by the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee of Treaties before it is sent to the Senate for approval.[28]

Conclusion

The Obama Administration’s rebalancing strategy ‘rebalanced’ U.S. resources towards Asia. The rebalancing strategy was a multifaceted one that included six facets: strengthening bilateral security alliances, deepening U.S. relations with emerging powers, engaging with regional multilateral institutions, expanding trade and investment, forging a broad-based military presence, and advancing democracy and human rights. The U.S. gave high priority ASEAN, ASEAN-centred multilateral institutions such as the ARF, ADMM Plus and EAMF, and to the EAS.The U.S. sought to shape the EASinto the region’s premier security forum by expanding its mandate.

Australia fully supported the Obama Administration’s rebalancing strategy because it meant that United States would be substantially engaged in the Asia-Pacific Region and thus contribute directly to Australia’s security. Since 2012, when the U.S. rebalancing strategy was announced, Australia and the United States modernized their alliance to include defence cooperation in a number of new areas including: ballistic missiledefence, space surveillance, cyber, defence technology and defence industries.

The geographic scope of the ANZUS alliance has been extended from the Asia-Pacific Region to include the Indian Ocean Region as well. Arguably these developments could have occurred as a product of the ANZUS alliance alone or as a result of the U.S. rebalancing strategy. In either case, these developments represent continuity rather than an abrupt change in defence relations.

The U.S. strategy of rebalancing offers benefits to both Canberra and Washington. The new U.S. emphasis on Asia, in Australia’s view, contributes to regional stability and reinforces Australia’s broad strategic objectives towards the region. In Australia’s view, for example, ASEAN and its related security institutions provide a venue for engaging both the United States and China. U.S. support for ASEAN and other ASEAN-centric regional multilateral organisationsis congruent with Australia’s sustained support for these bodies since the 1970s.

From Australia’s perspective, the centerpiece of the U.S. rebalancing strategy concerns changes in U.S. force posture with the rotational deployment of U.S. Marines in northern Australia. Since 2012 there have been three rotational deployments; at the same time Australia and the United States have moved from a Joint Statement of Principles to a legal agreement concerning the costs and responsibilities of each party.

Australia’s support for the rebalancing strategy has raised the importance of the ANZUS alliance to the United States (Jennings 2013, 42). For example, Australia’s future Air Warfare Destroyers are likely to take part in a regional anti-ballistic missile network alongside the United States and Japan. Although New Zealand has been written out of the ANZUS alliance, Australia and New Zealand have contributed to the NATO stabilisation mission in Afghanistan and are currently operating together in Iraq to train its armed forces.

As a result of Australia’s support for rebalancing, Canberra has been able to increase its ability to influence American policies of direct interest to Australia, especially in Southeast Asia.In addition, Australia has been able to leverage the rebalancing strategy to upgrade defence cooperation with Japan and Indonesia, two countries of strategic importance to Australia’s security.

There are also domestic benefits for Australia. The capabilities of the Australian Defence Force have increased through increase interoperability with the U.S. armed forces and the procurement of weapon systems and platforms, such as theAleniaC-27J Spartan transport aircraft, E-7A early warning aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft,EA-18G Growler and drones. Australia will also acquire the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter(JSF)when it comes into production.[29] Australia has lobbied for a JSF maintenance hub to be built in Australia.[30]According to figures produced by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Australia is currently the largest market for U.S. weapons.[31]

Australian defence science and technology and national defence industry have benefitted from expanded cooperation under the U.S. rebalancing strategy. For example, the U.S. and Australia signed a Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty on May 13, 2013 which will reduce red tape, minimise procurement delays, improve data sharing, and permit Australia ‘to gain access to advanced defence technologies, which it would be unable to develop domestically.’[32]These developments make Australia an attractive defence partner for many Asian countries.

The United States also benefits from Australia’s support. According to one defence analyst (Jennings 2013, 42):

the Australian initiatives demonstrate to other Asia-Pacific countries the value of closer cooperation with the U.S. military. In practical terms, if Washington cannot make a success of increased defence cooperation with Australia, it will have little chance of doing so with Southeast Asian countries, which have less experience of working with the United States, and less capable military forces, with the exception of Singapore.

One American analyst argued that (Ross 2013, 5):

Australia’s cooperative relationship with China positions Canberra well to encourage the new Chinese leadership to reconsider China’s hard-line position on East Asian territorial disputes. Rather than become entangled in regional disputes, Australian foreign policy can contribute to US-China cooperation and to a restoration of regional stability.

Despite these positive aspects the U.S. rebalancing strategy has generated some strategic uncertainty and debate in Australia.[33]First, there is concern about the ability of the U.S. to carry out its rebalancing strategy in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region while undergoing economic and financial difficulties and/or becoming entangled in the Middle East (Iraq and Syria). Some Australian strategic analysts fear the U.S. eventually will draw down its forces from the region.

A related strategic uncertaintyfocuses on the intent behind China’s military modernization and increasing assertiveness in the East and South China Seas.There is concern that the U.S. rebalancing strategy will provoke rivalry between China and the U.S. and thus destabilize the region and harm Australia’s interests. A longer-term concern is that China will become more powerful than the U.S. and displace the United States as the region’s hegemon.

While some Australian commentators assert that Australia will have to make a choice between the United States and China this is not the view of Australia’s two major political parties, the Liberal Party of Australia, now the government in Australia in coalition with the National Party, and the Australian Labor Party, whose two recent prime ministers (Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard) supported the U.S. rebalancing strategy.

In an important statement of official policy, Australia’s 2013 Defence White Paper stated unequivocally:

The Government does not believe that Australia must choose between its longstanding Alliance with the United States and its expanding relationship with China; nor do the United States and China believe that we must make such a choice. Their growing economic interdependence and developing security cooperation reinforce this point. The Government does not approach China as an adversary. Rather, its policy is aimed at encouraging China’s peaceful rise and ensuring that strategic competition in this region does not lead to conflict.[34]

At the 2014 AUSMIN Australia and the United States committed themselves to:

continue to build positive, cooperative and comprehensive relations with China, including through strong economic engagement and encouraging progress on human rights;

strengthen military-to-military relations with China and encourage China to exhibit greater transparency in its ongoing military modernisation.

In sum, the U.S. strategy of rebalancing is of vital importance to Australia because it meets Australia’s long-standing interest ‘in keeping Washington engaged in the broader security of the Asia-Pacific,’ according to the former Australian Deputy Secretary for Strategy (Jennings 2013, 39).[35] As noted by Jennings:

There is an obvious defence value for Australia in having the near continuous presence of U.S. military personnel in the north, both to show Washington’s commitment to Australia’s security and to complicate the plans of any country that might seek to harm Australian interests. However, the most immediate strategic value of enhanced cooperation is to provide a tangible expression of the U.S. commitment to the security of Southeast Asia, a region that has assumed greater importance in U.S. strategic thinking because of the competition for influence between Asia’s major powers.

References

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AUSMIN 2014 Joint Communiqué, August 12, 2014.http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/230524.htm.

Bishop, Julie 2014. ‘US-Australia: The Alliance in an Emerging Asia,’ Speech to the Alliance 21 Conference, Washington, D.C., January 22. http://foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/Pages/2014/jb_sp_140122.aspx?ministerid=4.

Bisley, Nick and Brendan Taylor 2014.Conflict in the East China Sea: Would ANZUS Apply? Ultimo, NSW: Australia China Relations Institute, November.

Clinton, Hillary 2011, ‘America’s Pacific Century,’Foreign Policy, no. 198, October 11, 2011, 56-63.http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/10/11/americas-pacific-century/.

Davis, Andrew, Peter Jennings, Daniel Nicola and Benjamin Schreer 2014. ‘Expanding Alliance: ANZUS Cooperation and Asia-Pacific Security,’ Strategy (Canberra: Australian Strategic Policy Institute, December).

Dean, Peter 2014. “ANZUS: The ‘Alliance’ and its Future in Asia,” in Peter J. Dean, Stephan Frühling and Brendan Taylor, eds.,Australia’s Defence: Towards a New Era? (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press), 206-234.

Dupont, Alan 2015. Full spectrum defence: Re-thinking the fundamentals of Australian defence strategy. Sydney: Lowy Institute for International Policy, March.

Edwards, Peter 2005. Permanent Friends? Historical Reflections on the Australian-American Alliance, Lowy Institute Paper 8. Sydney: Lowy Institute for International Policy, 3-4.

Fraser, Malcolm with Cain Roberts 2014.Dangerous Allies. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Green, Michael and Nicholas Szechenyieds. 2015. ”Pivot 2.0” How the Administration and Congress Can Work Together to Sustain American Engagement in Asia to 2016. Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, January.

Jennings, Peter 2013. ‘The U.S. Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific: An Australian Perspective,’ No. 15, 38-44.

Mahnken, Thomas G. ed. 2013.Indo-Pacific Maritime Security in the 21st Century: Proceedings of an International Conference. Convened on February 21 and 22, 2011 at the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre on Garden Island, Sydney. Newport, RI: US Naval War College and Lowy Institute for International Policy, 2013. https://sites.google.com/a/usnwc.edu/levy-chair/workshops-and-events/indo-pacificmaritimesecurityworkshop?pli=1.

Obama, Barack 2011. ‘Remarks By President Obama to the Australian Parliament, Canberra, Australia, 17 November 17, 2011’, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary.

Ross, Robert S. 2013. ‘The US Pivot to Asia and Implications for Australia,’ The Centre of Gravity SeriesPaper No. 5, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, The Australian National University, Canberra, March.

Scappatura, Vince 2014. ‘The US “Pivot to Asia”, the China Spectre and the Australian-American Alliance,’The Asia-Pacific Journal, vol. 11, issue no. 36, no. 3, September.

Thayer, Carlyle A.2011a.‘Australia Looks to Asia’s Future,’ Presentation to Asian Studies Center, The Heritage Foundation, Lehrman Auditorium, Washington, D.C., March 24, 2011.http://www.heritage.org/events/2011/03/australia-asia.

Thayer, Carlyle A.2011b‘China’s Rise and the Passing of U.S. Primacy: Australia Debates Its Future,’ Roundtable U.S. Re-engagement in Asia, Asia Policy [National Bureau of Asian Research], 12, July 2011, 20-26. http://www.nbr.org/Publications/issue.aspx?id=230

Thayer, Carlyle A. 2011c.‘The Future of US Alliances in Asia: Australia’s Security Perspectives,’ Paper to International Conference on The Future of US Alliances in Asia, co-organised by the Pacific Forum CSIS, YuchencoCenter De La Salle University and Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, New World Hotel, Makati City, Metro Manila, The Philippines, May 25-27, 2011.http://www.scribd.com/doc/56418754/Thayer-Australia-s-Perspectives-The-Future-of-US-Alliances-in-Asia.

Thayer, Carlyle A. 2012a.‘Australia Debates China-U.S. Relations,’ Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, August 9, 2012.http://www.scribd.com/doc/102584238/Thayer-Australia-Debates-China-US-Relations-2-parts.

Thayer, Carlyle A. 2012b.‘Australia’s Debate Over U.S. Rebalancing,’ Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, July 6, 2012.http://www.scribd.com/doc/102584238/Thayer-Australia-Debates-China-US-Relations-2-parts.

Thayer, Carlyle A.2013. ‘The Alliance: Who Will Australia Choose USA or China?,’ Presentation to Burton and Garran Hall Roundtable, The Australian National University, Canberra, September 3, 2013.http://www.scribd.com/doc/165697098/Thayer-The-Alliance-Who-Will-Australia-Choose-USA-or-China.

Thayer, Carlyle A. 2014. ‘U.S. Rebalancing Strategy and Australia’s Response: Business As Usual,’ Paper presented to conference on U.S. Rebalancing Strategy and Asia’s Responses, Institute of European and American Studies, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, August 22-22, 2014.

Thayer, Carlyle A. 2015a.‘China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank,’ Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, January 13.

Thayer, Carlyle A. 2015b. ‘U.S. Rebalancing Towards the Asia-Pacific: The Defence-Security Dimension,’ China Policy Institute Blog, University of Nottingham, January 26, 2015. http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/chinapolicyinstitute/2015/01/26/u-s-rebalancing-towards-the-asia-pacific-the-defence-security-dimension/.

Thayer, Carlyle A. 2015c. “The Rebalance in Southeast Asia: Not About Containment,” The Diplomat, March 3, 2015. http://thediplomat.com/2015/03/the-rebalance-in-southeast-asia-not-about-containment/.

 U.S. Department of Defense 2012.Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, Washington, D.C.

End-notes:

[1] Michael Danby, ‘Defence Blunder Sends Wrong signal,’ The Australian, June 16, 2014.

[2] In 1989 Australia was designated a ‘major non-NATO ally’ and received upgrades to research and development benefits under Title 10 (Armed Forces) of the United States Code. Concerning point 4 the United Kingdom and Australia are the only two countries to have entered into a Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty with the United States.

[3] ‘Prime Minister Gillard and President Obama Announce Force Posture Initiatives,’ Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, November 16, 2011.

[4] Opinion in Australia was divided about the message President Obama delivered; some viewed it as a direct challenge to China, while others welcomed the speech as a U.S. commitment to Australia’s security (Jennings 2013, 39-40).

[5]Talisman Saber is a biennial combined Australian and United States exercise, designed to train the two military forces in planning and conducting Combined Task Force operations to improve the combat readiness and interoperability.

[6]Defence officials from Australia, Japan and the United States held their first trilateral Security and Defence Cooperation Forum in 2007.

[7] Bishop’s remarks provoked the perennial debate about the impact of Australia’s relations with the U.S. on its relations with China. See: Christopher Joye, ‘Bishop sees US, not China, as top partner,’ The Australian Financial Review, January 25-27, 2014; Angus Grigg and John Kehoe, ‘Pivot to US ‘misguided’, says Labor,’ The Australian Financial Review, January 28, 2014; Hugh White, ‘This century belongs to Asia, despite our loyalty to America,,The Australian Financial Review, February 8-9, 2014; John Lee, ‘No Need to Take A Softly Softly Stand on China,’ The Australian, February 13, 2014; David Wroe, ‘China’s military is on the march and Canberra must take note,’ The Sydney Morning Herald, February 15, 29014; Peter Jennings, ‘Move closer to US to avoid bowing to China,’ The AustralianFinancial Review, February 17, 2014; and Rowan Callick, ‘Ongoing US stance in Asia is ‘vital to avoid runaway China’,’ The Australian, March 14, 2014. See also footnote 21.

[8] There are clear differences between Abbott and Obama on how to reduce gas emissions. Abbott was elected with a mandate to end the Labor Government’s carbon tax and replace it with a direct action policy to pay polluters to reduce gas emissions. Obama favours using market mechanisms. This disagreement surfaced at the G20 Summit in Australia at the end of the year. See: Phillip Coorey, ‘Leaders agree different roads lead to same goal,’ The Australian Financial Review, June 14-15, 2014. See also: John Kehoe, ‘Climate hot topic for visit,’ The Australian Financial Review, June 2, 2014.

[9] Quoted in Phillip Coorey, ‘Stronger Ties will boost US presence,’ The Australian Financial Review, June 14, 2014.

[10] Sharon Chen, ‘First U.S.-China-Australia Joint Military Drills Begin in Darwin,’ Bloomberg, October 6, 2014 and Xinhua, ‘Chinese soldiers join Australian, U.S. troops in joint exercises in Australia,’ October 8, 2014.

[11] See the joint opinion editorial article by Julie Bishop, David Johnston, John F. Kerry and Chuck Hagel, ‘Alliance with U.S. a Boon for Asia,’ The Australian, August 12, 2014 and Greg Sheridan, ‘Dialogue Can Only Strengthen Region’s Security,’ The Australian, August 14, 2014.

[12] Brendan Nicholson, ‘Marines will be “all hands on deck in regional crisis”,’ The Australian, February 11, 2015.

[13]Brendan Nicholson, ‘Marines lodging bill to hit $1.6 bn,’ The Australian, April 22, 2013.

[14] Brendan Nicholson, ‘US welcomes defence spending rise,’ The Australian, September 12, 2013.

[15] Christopher Joyce, ‘Free ride onus defence must stop,’ The Australian Financial Review, August 19, 2013.

[16] John Kerin and Greg Earl, ‘US-Australia step up special forces ties,’ The Australian Financial Review, August 13, 2014.

[17] Brendan Nicholson, ‘Joint missile defence on cards,’ The Australian, August 7, 2014; Greg Sheridan, ‘US plan to fire from our ships,’ The Australian, August 9-10, 2014; and Katharine Murphy, ‘Australia embraces missile and naval ties as it cements US defence pact,’ The Guardian, August 12, 2014.

[18] In February 2015 relations between Australia and Indonesia became strained over President JokoWidodo’s decision not to grant clemency to two Australian drug dealers due for execution by firing squad. Legal appeals are proceeding at the time of this writing. Bilateral tensions led the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staf, Genberal Martin Dempsey, to comment publicly, ‘To the degree that Australia’s relationship with Indonesia can improve, I think, brings another level of stability to Southeast Asia.’ Quoted in Brendan Nicholson, ‘Stable Jakarta relations key to region: US chief,’ The Australian, February 25, 2015.

[19]John Kerin, ‘Defence to tap Japanese sub technology,’ The Australian Financial Review, June 13, 2014. In February 2015, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged Australia not to delay making a decision on replacing its Collins-class submarines. Dempsey stated ‘Whatever choice Australia makes we would strongly encourage that the [combat] systems be compatible and interoperable with US forces. So that we can continue to operate like we do today.’ Greg Earl and John Kerin, ‘US top brass urges quick subs decision,’ The Australian Financial Review, February 25, 2015.

[20] China’s participation was formally announced during the visit of Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, to Australia from July 16-19, 2014.

[21] U.S. Department of State, ‘Remarks with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop After their Meeting,’ January 21, 2015. Bishop met with Secretary Kerry in Washington.