61. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, June 8, 1976, 1400.1 2

In reply refer to: 1-6335/76

SUBJECT: Meeting with Mr. Killen, Minister of Defense, Government of Australia

  • Australia
  • Minister of Defense, Mr. Dennis James Killen
  • Ambassador to U.S., Mr. Nicholas Parkinson
  • Head of the Australian Defense Staff, MGen Peter Falkland
  • Personal Secretary to Minister of Defense, Mr. Liddicoat
  • United States
  • The Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld
  • Military Assistant to SECDEF, Rear Admiral M. Staser Holcomb
  • USN Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr. William P. Clements, Jr.
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), Mr. Eugene V. McAuliffe
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, East Asia & Pacific Affairs (ISA), Morton I. Abramowitz
  • Director, East Asia & Pacific Region (ISA), RADM William J. Crowe
  • USN Country Director, Australia, Colonel H. Parks Houser III, USA

Time: 1400 hours, 8 June 1976
Place: Office of the Secretary of Defense

(C) NATO Cohesiveness. In response to a question on this subject, The Secretary stated that NATO has held together remarkably well. He granted that there had been problems but in each case they had been worked out. He said attention was now turning to Spain. The King had taken steps to liberalize the old policies and some of Western Europe’s leaders were now changing their views toward Spain. The Secretary closed by stating that this administration feels it is essential to bring Spain into NATO.

[Page 2]

(C) Diego Garcia. Mr. Killen asked whether there had been any softening in the Congressional attitude toward Diego Garcia. The Secretary said there had not been in spite of continued Soviet efforts to build up their naval forces. Mr. Clements commented that in his Congressional hearings on Diego Garcia he was forced to stick to the U.S. side of the issue. The recent Australian public statement of support for Diego Garcia will be very helpful to the U.S. and will give a clear signal of regional support. The Secretary expressed strong appreciation for Australian support and said it was invaluable. Mr. Killen said he would report the Secretary’s comment to the Prime Minister. He urged the Secretary to continue to use the public GOA statement.

(C) Nuclear Powered Warship Visits. Mr. Killen commented that the Prime Minister had announced that NPWs could visit Australian ports and emphasized that they would welcome a visit as soon as possible. In this regard, he noted that Cockburn Sound Naval Base was being completed and could now receive ships. The Secretary expressed his appreciation for the Australian action.

(C) Thailand. Mr. Killen wondered if moving out of Thailand was going to cause problems for the USG. Noting that it would reduce U.S. logistic capability in the Western Pacific, The Secretary replied that negotiations with Thailand had not gone well but that we would find an alternative to our facilities in Thailand. The secretary said he was relaxed on this issue. Any agreement with another country must involve mutual interests and underlying domestic political support and obviously the latter was lacking in Thailand.

(C) Philippine Negotiations. When asked the status of this issue, the Secretary commented that things were progressing at a satisfactory pace. Mr. Killen asked if the Filipinos were requesting more “commercial activity” on the bases. Mr. Clements stated that they did want to become more involved in the administration of the bases and perhaps wanted some more money; however, he did not feel that their terms were unreasonable. Ambassador Parkinson noted that from the beginning the Filipinos had stated they did not want to reduce the U.S. strategic capability. (Killen noted that being out for more money was not a charge that could be laid against Australia.)

(C) Law of the Sea. Mr. Killen thought that LOS problems would loom very large in the future. He felt that if the width of the territorial waters extended to 12 miles, it would have a tremendous impact on international security and political arrangements and would lead to significant conflicts between nations. In particular the Philippine and Indonesian archipelagoes [Page 3] would present us with significant problems in that 118 straits would become domestic waters. Mr. McAuliffe noted that the Soviets had problems with this too but that current proposals would keep open key straits to international traffic.

(C) Australia’s Defense Budget. Mr. Killen stated that the Australian Defense Department was the one department in Canberra that had escaped the comptroller’s axe and that over the next five years it could receive 12 billion. This equated to a real increase of six percent per year. The Secretary congratulated the Australians on this policy. The Secretary noted that most NATO countries had been increasing about one percent per year and the U.S. had just now been able to turn its defense spending curves around. He thought that these actions by Western nations were encouraging and mutually reinforcing.

(C) Patrol Frigate Program. In the context of complementarily of defense programs, Mr. Killen inquired about the U.S. patrol frigate program, asking whether it still involved a buy of fifty ships. Mr. Clements said yes, although only twelve or so will be authorized through FY 77. Mr. Killen said Australia might well add to its two-ship buy.

(C) Papua and New Guinea. Mr. Killen said this was one area that worried him. This new country was ripe for internal subversion and fragmentation and as a result, GOA was putting a lot of its economic resources there. He hoped the Indonesians were not going to try to take advantage of this situation.

(C) Increased Defense Cooperation. Mr. McAuliffe stated that one of the by-products of recent official level U.S.-Australian defense consultations was the suggestion that there were some areas where we could increase our defense cooperation. Mr. Killen agreed, noting that Indian Ocean surveillance was beyond the capability of New Zealand and Australia combined and, thus, one promising possibility. Others were increased intelligence gathering in the Southwest Pacific and larger and more frequent joint exercises. Mr. Clements asked if the Australian ships would like to visit Diego Garcia. Mr. Killen was enthusiastic about the proposal and urged that it be followed up, possibly as soon as the destroyer Hobart’s return from Opsail in July.

Approved by:
Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)
Date: 7/7/76

DepSecDef Clements
DepSecDef Ellsworth
RADM Holcomb
ISA/AD (COL Houser)
AMEMB Canberra

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330–79–0037, Australia, 333, Memcons (only), 1976, June–September. Confidential. Prepared by Houser and approved by McAuliffe. The conversation took place in Rumsfeld’s office.
  2. Killen and Rumsfeld discussed NATO, Diego Garcia, nuclear powered warships, Thailand, Philippine negotiations, Law of the Sea, Australian defense, and Papua New Guinea.