Australia-US/East Asia

Chronology from Mar 1996 to Jul 2003

: PM Howard announces Australian soldiers and police will be sent to Solomon Islands (following request by its PM) to prevent drug dealers and terrorists from exploiting current instability.

:   Eleven nation “coalition of the willing” supports U.S. Proliferation Security Initiative in Madrid.

: Speaking in Tokyo, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz indicates that a strategic realignment of U.S. forces could see a greater emphasis placed on Australia in the Pacific region.

:   DM Hill says that Australia will increase joint exercises with U.S. forces, allowing the U.S. to conduct their own training operations in Australia, and expand Australian ports facilities for the U.S. Navy.

: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, repeats comments of Australia’s Ambassador to Washington, Michael Thawley: “We know what is right. We do what is needed. We stick by our mates.”

: DM Hill denies report that there are plans to base U.S. military forces in Australia.

: The second round of U.S.-Australia FTA talks negotiations commence in Hawaii.

: PM John Howard visits President Bush in Crawford, Texas.

:   PM Howard visits President Bush at his Crawford Ranch in Texas. Bush states that an FTA between the two countries could be completed by the end of the year for submission to the U.S. Congress in 2004.

: Australia’s Defence Minister Robert Hill announces the beginning of “Operation Catalyst,” Australia’s military contribution to assist postwar Iraq.

:   U.S. Congress establishes a caucus devoted to Australia. The immediate aim of the “Friends of Australia Congressional Caucus” is to support the U.S.-Australia FTA.

:   Australian Navy seizes DPRK vessel, the Pong Su for smuggling illegal drugs.

: U.S. Senate thanks Australia for its support in the war against terror.

:   FM Downer visits Washington and New York, meeting with President Bush and his administration.

:   PM Howard tells Australian people that he has committed up to 2,000 Defence Force personnel to a U.S. coalition to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. The commitment includes Navy frigates, a Special Forces Task Group, a squadron of F/A-18 aircraft, and C-130 Hercules aircraft.

:   President Bush formally asks Australia to be part of the U.S. “coalition of the willing” in military operations against Iraq.

:   President Bush advises Saddam Hussein and his sons that they have 48 hours to leave Iraq.

: PM Howard pledges support to the U.S. military campaign in Iraq  “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

: First round of Australia-U.S. FTA negotiations begin in Canberra.

: Schieffer says he has noticed wave of anti-Americanism across Australia.

: Crean meets with Schieffer, who agrees not to interfere in domestic Australian politics.

: DFAT releases policy white paper which states, “Australia’s links with the United States are fundamental for our security and prosperity and that the strengthening of our alliance is a key policy aim.”

:   Simon Crean, leader of the Australian Labor Party, rejects criticism from U.S. Ambassador to Australia Tom Schieffer that he had indulged in anti-American behavior, broken long-standing bipartisan support for the American alliance, and failed to develop meaningful relationships with members of the Bush administration.

:   PM Howard travels to the U.S. for talks. Bush confirms that Australia is part of the U.S. “coalition of the willing” in any military action against Iraq.

: In Canberra, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick formally announces America’s intention to negotiate an FTA with Australia.

:   Australia-U.S. ministerial (AUSMIN) talks held in Washington.

: President Bush calls PM Howard to express his country’s deepest sympathies for the Bail bombings, stating that the attack is a reminder that the war against terror must continue.

: Terrorist attacks in Bali, Indonesia kill 202 people, including 88 Australians and 7 Americans.

:   In Canberra, FM Downer delivers speech on the strategic importance of a free trade agreement to Australia-U.S. relations, stating that it is “now a major policy objective for the Government.”

: FM Alexander Downer delivers speech in Dallas, “reaffirming Australia’s commitment to the dynamic and diverse relationship with the United States.”

:   Australia joins U.S. in $200 billion development phase of the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program.

: Australian PM John Howard meets President Bush at the White House.

:   PM Howard visits U.S. and addresses joint session of Congress (the first PM to visit since 1988) and declares: “My friends, let me say to you today that America has no better friend anywhere in the world than Australia.”

: Australian government sends ASIO, federal police, and foreign affairs officials to Camp X-Ray, Guantánamo Bay to interview two Australian captives, David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, suspected of al-Qaeda links.

: In a speech on the six-month anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush praises Australia in the fight against terrorism and singles out Sgt. Russell and his family for special praise and remembrance.

:   Australia suffers first non-U.S military fatality in Afghanistan when SAS Sgt. Andrew Russell is killed by a land mine.

: After a request from President Bush, PM Howard officially commits 1,550 military personnel to “Operation Enduring Freedom.” The deployment includes two 707 aircraft refuelers, a 150-man SAS squadron, and an Orion Aircraft. Twenty-six other countries also contribute forces.

: U.S. commences “Operation Enduring Freedom” against Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the first conflict in the “war against terror.”

: PM Howard returns from Washington and invokes Article IV of the ANZUS treaty for the first time. Howard declares the terrorist strikes an attack on Australia, and that the invocation of the treaty “demonstrates Australia’s steadfast commitment to work with the United States.”

:   Terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania kill more than 3,500 people, including 10 Australians.

:   PM Howard meets with President Bush in Washington as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the ANZUS Treaty signed Sept. 1, 1951. The two leaders sign a joint statement reaffirming the strength and vitality of the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

: Australia’s Department of Defence releases “Defence 2000: Our Future Defence Force,” which affirms that “Australia’s undertakings in the ANZUS Treaty to support the United States are as important as the U.S. undertakings to support Australia.”

: Australia leads a UN sanctioned International Force in East Timor and plays a key role in East Timor’s movement toward independence in 2002.

: Following an interview between Prime Minister Howard and journalist Fred Brenchley in The Bulletin, it is subsequently misreported that Australia is to adopt the role of America’s “deputy sheriff” in its regional foreign policy.

: Indonesia’s President Suharto is forced to resign as an estimated 2,500 people are killed in riots across Jakarta.

: Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade releases “In the National Interest,” which states that “[t]here is no strategic relationship closer than that which Australia shares with the United States, whose strategic engagement and commitment underwrites the stability of East Asia.”

: The Asian financial crisis cripples financial markets in the region. Australia contributes to IMF rescue packages for countries most effected, including Indonesia, Korea, and Thailand.

: Joint Security Declaration is released at the annual Australian-United States Ministerial talks (AUSMIN). The “Sydney Statement” declares that, “[t]he Australia-United States security relationship, having proved its value for five decades, will remain a cornerstone of Asia Pacific security into the 21st century.”

: Taiwan Strait Crisis; PM Howard condemns China’s intimidation of Taiwan’s first democratic elections and supports dispatch of U.S. aircraft carriers to the region.

: John Howard elected prime minister, defeating Labor incumbent Paul Keating.

Date Range