Mr Howard met China's top leaders in Beijing this week.
Later, in a comment on international efforts to pressure China on its human rights record, he insisted that quiet diplomacy is producing sufficient results. "If I keep--if I keep bringing up their violations, how will I get trade agreements out of them? If you can answer me that, then I'll bring up the human rights violations.
"And what's more," he said, after pausing to adjust his glasses, "it's not like we're squeaky clean on Human Rights, is it?"
Take Alexander Downer, Foreign Minister for Australia, who is working hard at creating a counter-terrorist network in the region. Which, of course, is best done by reestablishing ties with violent, terrorist like networks, such as Kopassus. Major General Sriyanto, head of this 'security uni', is visiting Australia next month to look into the possibility of resuming ties.
"Initially, Kopassus consisted of three groups. Groups 1 and 2 are predominantly combat troops, similar to their counterparts anywhere in the world.
Group 3, which was set up in 1963, features additional training on counter insurgency, including interrogation techniques and torture methods.
Under Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, Group 3 became notorious for its role in state-sponsored terrorism by operations involving the murder, torture and kidnapping of potential and influential opposition figures.
In the run-up to the Consultative Assembly (MPR) session on 11 March 1998 which reappointed Suharto as president for his seventh consecutive term, at least 23 government critics disappeared. Nine of them later resurfaced and told stories of solitary confinement, interrogation and physical abuse. The remainder are presumed to have been murdered."
"The U.S. Undersecretary of State, Richard Armitage, while in Australia to hold talks about security and terrorism in the Asia-Pacific region, said that he supports Australia's decision to restore ties with Indonesia's controversial special forces, the Kopassas unit, in order to combat terrorism. The American diplomat believes Canberra has an important part to play in regional security, both in fighting terrorism, and in restoring stability to such troubled Pacific states as the Solomon Islands.
"The U.S. has had a policy of renewing ties when it was prudent to do so, and it hasn't once come back and hit us in some fashion." When asked about Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussien, both of whom U.S. Administrations armed and trained in various forms, Armitage laughed.
"It all worked out in the end," he explained, smiling still.
When asked if this meant that the U.S. would renew its tie, Mr. Armitage responded that no. Kopassus is still suspected of involvement in the murders of two U.S. citizens in Indonesia in 2001. He says, however, that a military alliance between Australia and Indonesia would be beneficial for the region.
"I not only understand it, I support it very much. You're a citizen of this neighborhood. It's very much in Australia's interests to get involved with your neighbors for the betterment of all," says Mr. Armitage. "Look, I think we can't forget the past, we can't forget past activities, but we've got to live for the future and if the activities of the Australian Government with the Indonesian military makes for a better future and a safer environment, I say good on them."
The reasoning behind Armitage's understanding, and the Howard Government's desire to bring Kopassus back, is that Group V (the anti-terrorist unit within Kopassus) "has engaged in two previous hostage rescue missions," both a success.
But that is, of course, ignoring the history of Kopassus's other activities, which read more like that of a terrorist organisation. This is not surprising given that techniques and tactics of terror are explicitly outlined in chapter five of a confidential Kopassus training manual.