This month marks the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Australia alliance. To celebrate the occasion, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met with Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith. "For over sixty years now," said Secretary Clinton, "each new global challenge has brought with it a new cause for cooperation with Australia and an ever stronger partnership in our shared values."
In Afghanistan, Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the mission. In Libya, Australia now provides ten percent of the international humanitarian budget. From cyberspace to food security, Australia makes vital contributions to global security and stability.
As Asia Pacific powers, the U.S. and Australia are committed to working together to seize the opportunities of a fast-changing region. In a joint communique, the U.S. and Australia have spelled out a full range of shared interests, values and vision from maritime cooperation to joint development projects to building stronger ties with India to promote democracy and prosperity in the Pacific Islands.
One country of particular shared concern is Burma. In recent weeks, the Burmese government has made some conciliatory gestures, including President Thein Sein's recent meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi. The new Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma, Ambassador Derek Mitchell, has just returned from his first visit to Burma where he met with several government officials and a broad spectrum of civil society leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi.
Many serious concerns remain, from Burma's treatment of ethnic minorities and more than 2,000 prisoners to its relations with North Korea. "Still," said Secretary Clinton, "we welcome the fact that the Burmese government has launched a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and begun to speak of the need for reforms. So, I would urge the Burmese government to follow its words and commitments with concrete actions that lead to genuine reform, national reconciliation, and respect for human rights."
Respect for fundamental freedoms is only one of the many values and foreign policy goals that the United States and Australia continue to share. "We recommit ourselves," said Secretary Clinton, "to continue to work closely together as allies and friends to make good on [the alliance's] full promise for many years to come."