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Australian FM Warns of 'Horrendous' Humanitarian Disaster in Pakistan


Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (file photo)

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (file photo)

Australia's new foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, is heading to Pakistan and the United States on his first official overseas trip since his appointment. Mr. Rudd says the threats posed by disease in Pakistan in the aftermath of disastrous floods must be addressed urgently.

Kevin Rudd is back in the political spotlight three months after being ousted as prime minister by Labor Party colleagues.

To ease party tensions his successor as prime minister, Julia Gillard, named Rudd her foreign minister.

On Thursday, within 24 hours of being sworn into office, Rudd was heading overseas, first to Pakistan.

Mr. Rudd says Pakistan is a "slow burn humanitarian disaster, potentially of horrendous proportions." He urges the international community to do far more to help the victims of that country's floods.

After visiting Pakistan, he will fly on to Washington and New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Before his departure, Rudd said that continuing the global effort to counter extremism remains a fundamental challenge.

"The fact that counter-terrorism and terrorist activity again does not rank a daily front page mention in our newspapers, or newspapers around the world, doesn't mean that the challenge and the threat do not still exist. It does," Rudd said. "And therefore maintaining vigilance globally on those questions and related security questions on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament means that we must make sure that we are part of the common voice of the U.N."

Much of Australia's diplomatic activity over the next few years will aim to balance its long-established military and economic ties with the United States with its booming commercial relationship with China.

Chinese demand for natural resources helped insulate Australia from the worst of the global recession. Trade analysts say China's appetite for iron ore and other industrial ingredients will help underwrite Australia's economy for at least the next two decades.

Steering a path between the United States and China, will be a challenge for Australia.

Kevin Rudd appears well suited to the task. He is a fluent Mandarin speaker and is well respected in Washington.

Following his visit to Pakistan, Mr. Rudd meets U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington. He will then address the United Nations in New York.

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