Thu, Dec 16, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Australian envoys lambaste Asia: cables

AP, SYDNEY

Top Australian diplomats described China as “paranoid” and the Philippines as a “basket case” that could become a haven for terrorists, leaked diplomatic cables published yesterday showed.

The memo of October 2008 talks between Australia and the US, handed to WikiLeaks and published exclusively by the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), gave a scathing assessment of the “troubled” Asia-Pacific region.

The newspaper reported top Australian foreign affairs official David Ritchie, who is now the ambassador to France, referring to “an increase in illegal immigration from Indonesia ... continuing political instability in Thailand; the basket case of the Philippines.”

On East Timor, Ritchie said there was “the continuing burden of providing security and development assistance to East Timor [and] problems of bad governance in many of the Pacific Island states.”

Fellow envoy Graham Fletcher told US officials China was “running rings around Japan” in Southeast Asia, but was plagued by internal issues, the published excerpts showed.

“While China might look impressive externally its internal politics were characterised by nervousness, paranoia and uncertainty,” Fletcher said, as quoted by the SMH.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, when he was prime minister also reportedly urged the US to consider using force against the Asian giant in a worst-case scenario.

A separate cable published yesterday by the SMH said that there was an “ongoing downward slide in the Philippines, where the collapse of the peace process in the south threatened to make this area the new regional incubator of terrorist jihadis.”

The fresh cables came as support mounted in Australia for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is being held in Britain. The activist group GetUp! has raised almost US$365,000 to fund full-page ads locally and in the US condemning his treatment.

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