Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kevin is out and about - Hooray for Oz

ABC - Australia's national broadcaster reports:


Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has returned to the world stage, starting with a visit to Washington where he has met senior officials in the Obama administration.

Sworn in as minister just days ago, it is his first official overseas trip since he was removed as prime minister.

Mr Rudd kicked off his official duties by winning a promise from US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to visit Australia in early November.

"Thank you very much for making me feel so welcome here at the state department," he said to Ms Clinton at a press conference. "I feel very much as if I am here among old friends."

Ms Clinton said she was "delighted" to see him again.

"Let me warmly welcome a friend and colleague back to the state department in his new capacity as Foreign Minister," she said.

Ms Clinton describes the US-Australia relationship as "long and deep", while Mr Rudd says it is a relationship Australia takes "deeply seriously".

Mr Rudd's return to the world stage after his removal as prime minister was always going to be closely watched and on his first official overseas visit, he snared a promise from Ms Clinton to visit Australia in November for the US-Australia Ministerial meeting.

"We're a very hospitable people and we believe you can do some serious work and have a good time at the same time," he said.

The US is trying to deepen its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region - encouraged, Ms Clinton says, by Mr Rudd.

"Australia, when Kevin was prime minister, now as Foreign Minister, was very supportive of that effort," she said.

"So I will be attending the East Asia summit to be held at the end of October in Hanoi.

"Because of the growth in Asia and the many issues that are now having to be confronted by the nations there, we need a different architecture," she said.

"In addition to deepening our commitment to ASEAN, we began the process of exploring the opportunity for the United States to join the East Asia Summit. Australia... was very supportive of that effort.

"This will be my first trip as secretary of state because I had to cancel my prior trip due to the earthquake in Haiti, and I am so looking forward to returning to a country that I admire so greatly."

No high level meeting between Australia and the US would be complete with a discussion about Afghanistan.

Mr Rudd has told Ms Clinton that Australia's support for the war in Afghanistan remains "strong and robust".

"This is not an easy conflict, it is a hard conflict. But we are resolved to stay the course with our friends and allies in the United States and we'll maintain a very close dialogue with the administration on the future shape of our engagement there," he said.

Mr Rudd will soon head to New York for the UN General Assembly, another spot on the world stage he last visited as prime minister.

(click on the title to this post to go directly to the article on abc.net.au)