Top US Military Officer Visits Australia

The top U.S. military officer, General Peter Pace, arrived in Australia Saturday night for talks on the global war on terrorism and bilateral issues.  VOA's Al Pessin is traveling with the general and filed this report from Sydney.

General Pace will hold two days of meetings with top officials, including the head of Australia's military, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston.  In a VOA interview during a stop in Hawaii, the general described his visit as a chance for good friends to compare notes on a variety of important issues.

"They've got a lot of support that they are giving to us directly in the war on terrorism, their great leadership in their part of the Pacific to try and help their neighbors, so just to collaborate with him and try and make sure that we're taking advantage of all the opportunities that are available for both of our countries to help each other," he said.

Australia has troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and works with the United States in the effort to end terrorism in the Pacific.

The director of operations for U.S. Special Forces in the region, Colonel Louis Caporicci, says Australia is uniquely positioned to help the United States build relations with Pacific Island nations.  

"We both have homeland defense issues and we both wish to bring stability to the region for economic and for political purposes," he noted.  "Australia, being a proximate neighbor to many of these countries has long term relationships with Malaysia and the Philippines that assist both of our efforts in working with those countries."

Colonel Caporicci says U.S. Special Forces in the Pacific put a lot of effort into helping countries in the region, particularly Islamic nations, build their democratic institutions and military capabilities.  The effort focuses particularly on the southern Philippines, where Muslim insurgencies are active.  And there is a growing effort to work with Indonesia, which General Pace will also visit during this trip. 

There are also bilateral issues for General Pace to discuss in Australia, including its recent decision to remain a full partner in the fighter aircraft the United States is developing for use by several allied nations.

"Their concerns are two:  one, ultimate price, and two, timeline delivery, both of which are important to us as well," he added.  "So, whatever discussions we have on that will help both of our countries."

General Pace will also likely be asked about David Hicks, the one Australian held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.  There have been repeated calls by members of Australia's parliament and others for Hicks to be released.  General Pace says Hicks was recently charged with terrorism offensives under the new system for trying detainees, and that that process will now proceed.

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