No wonder Australia is so upset over Wikileaks; released cables show a government keen to keep military options (aka US fire-power) on the table. And Canberra’s enthusiasm for special forces in Pakistan is another worrying sign that “fighting terrorism” knows no limits, legalities or bounds:
Kevin Rudd warned Hillary Clinton to be prepared to use force against China ”if everything goes wrong”, an explosive WikiLeaks cable has revealed.
Mr Rudd also told Mrs Clinton during a meeting in Washington on March 24 last year that China was ”paranoid” about Taiwan and Tibet and that his ambitious plan for an Asia-Pacific community was intended to blunt Chinese influence.
It also reveals Mr Rudd offered Australian special forces to fight inside Pakistan once an agreement could be struck with Islamabad.
The cable details a 75-minute lunch Mr Rudd held as prime minister with Mrs Clinton soon after she was appointed US Secretary of State.
Signed ”Clinton” and classified ”confidential”, it is the first of the WikiLeaks cables that includes a substantive report on Australia.
The unprecedented disclosure of such a frank exchange between political leaders is bound to complicate Australia’s ties in the region, especially with Beijing.
At the lunch Mrs Clinton confided to Mr Rudd America’s fears about China’s rapid rise and Beijing’s multibillion-dollar store of US debt. She asked: ”How do you deal toughly with your banker?”
In a wide-ranging conversation Mr Rudd:
Described himself as ”a brutal realist on China” and said Australian intelligence agencies closely watched its military expansion.
Said the goal must be to integrate China into the international community, ”while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong”.
Characterised Chinese leaders as ”sub-rational and deeply emotional” about Taiwan.
Said the planned build-up of Australia’s navy was ”a response to China’s growing ability to project force”.
Sought Mrs Clinton’s advice on dealing with the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, and Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, whom she labelled the ”behind-the-scenes puppeteer”.
Mr Rudd agreed any success in Afghanistan would unravel if Pakistan fell apart – and that Islamabad must be turned away from its ”obsessive focus” on India. He also discussed ways to bring China to the table in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The disclosures in the cable, posted online by the British newspaper The Guardian, will complicate Mr Rudd’s already testy personal links with China after his reported reference to Chinese negotiators as ”rat f—ers” during the Copenhagen climate change conference.
Mr Rudd gave Mrs Clinton a candid assessment of the Chinese leadership, drawing a disparaging contrast between the President, Hu Jintao, with his predecessor, saying Mr Hu ”is no Jiang Zemin”.
Mr Rudd said no one person dominated China’s opaque leadership circle but the Vice-President, Xi Jinping, might use family ties to the military to rise to the top.
Mr Rudd said he had urged China to strike a deal with the Dalai Lama for autonomy in Tibet and while he saw little prospect of success, he asked Mrs Clinton to have ”a quiet conversation” to push the idea with Beijing’s leaders.
On his plan for an ”Asia-Pacific community”, Mr Rudd said the goal was to curb China’s dominance. He wanted to ensure this did not result in ”an Asia without the United States”.
Mrs Clinton has since publicly praised Mr Rudd for his advice on China and credited him for the US decision this year to join the East Asia Summit.
Mr Rudd is in the Middle East and a spokeswoman said he did not have any comment on the release of the cable.
The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, declined to answer questions on any damage to Australia’s ties with China or the role of Australian special forces in Pakistan arising from the revelations in the cable.
In a statement issued by a spokesman he said: ”The government has made it clear it has no intention to provide commentary on the content of US classified documents.”
In the cable, Mr Rudd appears eager to impress on Mrs Clinton his knowledge of international affairs, promising to send her copies of his speech in April 2008 at Peking University and a draft journal article on his Asia-Pacific community plan.
The thoughts of chairman Rudd
Kevin Rudd’s China strategy
‘‘Multilateral engagement with bilateral vigour’’ — while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong.
Rudd on China’s military modernisation
Australian intelligence keeping a close watch, and Australia responding with increased naval capability.
On the Chinese leadership
President Hu Jintao ‘‘is no Jiang Zemin’’. No one person dominated, although Hu’s likely replacement Xi Jinping could rise above his colleagues.
On China’s attitude to Taiwan and Tibet
Chinese leaders paranoid about both. Reaction to Taiwan sub-rational and deeply emotional. Hardline Tibet policies crafted to send message to other ethnic minorities.