Kevin Rudd's plan to contain Beijing
Paul Maley, National security correspondent
From: The Australian December 05, 2010 10:00PM
KEVIN Rudd warned the US the world must be prepared to "deploy force" if China could not be integrated into the international system.
And he said his vision for an Asia Pacific Community was primarily an attempt to contain Chinese influence.
In what amounts to the first substantive mentions of Australia in the WikiLeaks cache of leaked foreign cables, the then prime minister also said he argued in Beijing for a "small a" autonomy deal for Tibet and promised "special operations and counter-insurgency" support for the Pakistani government in its fight against extremists.
As Attorney-General Robert McClelland brushed aside allegations by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that the Gillard government had abandoned the wanted Australian, the government was in lockdown over the disclosures, which are likely to cause embarrassment in Beijing, Canberra and Washington.
They represent the first of reportedly more than 1400 mentions of Australia among the 251,000 cables leaked to WikiLeaks - about 1000 of which are believed to have been dispatched directly from the US embassy in Canberra.
For months, authorities in Canberra have been bracing for the leaks, which Mr McClelland has warned could compromise national security.
Written by a US diplomat on March 28 last year, a confidential cable details a 75-minute lunch meeting in Washington involving US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mr Rudd and a coterie of senior advisers and officials, including Australia's ambassador to Washington, Dennis Richardson, and national security adviser Duncan Lewis.
Written four days after the meeting, the account suggests Mr Rudd took a hawkish view on China's ascendancy in the Asia region, warning of the need to contain China with force if necessary, and to use his proposed Asia Pacific Community as a means of curbing its growing influence and prevent the emergence of a "Chinese Monroe Doctrine". The Monroe Doctrine was the 19th-century US policy designed to prevent further European expansion in the Americas.
The cable also suggests Mrs Clinton was keen to pump Mr Rudd for advice on how to manage Beijing's growing economic clout, which she said was causing "deep anxiety" in Washington.
Mrs Clinton is quoted as asking Mr Rudd, "How do you deal toughly with your banker?"
Mr Rudd goes on to describe himself as a "brutal realist" on the issue of China and argues for a "multilateral engagement with bilateral vigour".
"(Which would integrate) China effectively into the international community and (allow) it to demonstrate greater responsibility, all while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong," the cable quotes Mr Rudd as saying.
Mr Rudd, a Mandarin speaker, said Australia's intelligence community kept a "close watch" on China's military modernisation. "(He) indicated the forthcoming Australian Defence white paper's focus on naval capability is a response to China's growing ability to project force," the cable said.
And, in a remark likely to cause offence in Beijing, Mr Rudd said Chinese President Hu Jiantao "is no Jiang Zemin" - a reference to Mr Hu's predecessor.
The cable also reveals Mr Rudd had suggested to Chinese leaders they consider "a small 'a' autonomy deal with the Dalai Lama", the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. Mr Rudd said such a proposal would have "little prospect of success", but counselled: "The best chance would be if someone of the Secretary's stature had 'a quiet conversation' with the Politburo Standing Committee member responsible for Tibet sometime after the furor (sic) over the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's exile subsides". Elsewhere Mr Rudd said China was "paranoid" on the question of Tibet and Taiwan, the latter regarded by Beijing as a rogue province.
In one of the most intriguing sections of the cable, Mr Rudd shines new light on the logic behind his much-derided proposal for an Asia-Pacific Community by 2020.
"Noting Russia's interest in being included in Asian regional architecture, Rudd explained the thinking behind his Asia-Pacific Community initiative mostly as an effort to ensure Chinese dominance of the East Asia Summit did not result in a 'Chinese Monroe Doctrine' and an Asia without the US."
Mr Rudd compliments US President Barack Obama's decision to deliver a video addressed directly to Iran's people as a "creative play". He laments, with Mrs Clinton, Pakistan's "obsessive focus" on India, saying it came at the expense of Pakistan's lawless Western Frontier with Afghanistan which serves as a sanctuary for Islamic militants. He goes on to note that coalition gains in Afghanistan would be to nought if Pakistan were allowed to fail.
"Rudd indicated Australia was willing and able to help, especially in special operations and counter-insurgency areas, as soon as Pakistan was willing to accept help," the cable said. "But argued the necessary economic development assistance and capacity-building in Pakistan's security forces could only happen once the elites came to recognise the problem."
Yesterday, veteran diplomat Richard Woolcott, charged with setting up the APC, expressed surprise at the contents of the cable, which he noted was an American interpretation of the conversation, not Mr Rudd's. "It was never explained to me in those terms," he said. "Rudd said to me on several occasions that one of the objectives was to engage China."
A spokeswoman for Julia Gillard said last night: "The government has made it clear we won't be providing commentary on individual cables."
Yesterday, Mr McClelland said Mr Assange, who is wanted for questioning in Sweden on rape allegations and is being investigated by the Australian Federal Police over the leaks, was entitled to the same protections as any other Australian. "This includes the right to return to Australia and also to receive consular assistance while he is overseas, if that is requested," a spokesman said.
The comments followed remarks by Mr Assange, who is thought to be in London in hiding following an Interpol alert issued by Sweden, that Australia was "actively working to assist the US government in its attacks on myself and our people".