October 13, 2012

US base a danger Assange warns

JULIAN Assange has warned that the decision by Australia to allow US troops to be stationed in Darwin is "totally wrong" and may lead to a potential "arms race" in which China may seek to increase its military presence and intelligence-gathering in the region. 

 In his first interview with an Australian journalist from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Mr Assange told National Indigenous Television's Jeremy Geia that he was not anti-American but that Australia had not helped itself in the Asia-Pacific region by allowing US troops in the country.

"I am not reactively anti American alliance, but to actually station foreign troops on Australian soil, all these bases . . . to do it in a provocative way when China is aggressively pushing its influence, it sends out all the wrong signals," he said in the interview.

"It sends out sort of an arms race as well -- 'if there is an Australian base here, we better have a Chinese base here, or we better have some other kind of base there' -- the Chinese think they need to up their patrols and up their intelligence collection in Australia . . . it's totally wrong."

The WikiLeaks founder said it was important for Australia to have powerful countries as allies but it needed medium-sized "friends" in the region as well.

Mr Assange, 41, has been holed up in the embassy since he sought refuge on June 19. He is wanted for questioning in Sweden about allegations of rape and sexual assault.

The Australian, who has denied the allegations, fears being extradited to the US from Sweden to stand trial for espionage.

"People should not think: poor Julian, stuck in the embassy. Ten days in solitary confinement, his name's been smeared all over the world. He's had an electronic manacle on his ankle for 18 months under house arrest," Mr Assange said in the interview on September 5. "Well, it is kind of grim like that but I have been having a tremendous fight and we have achieved victories that are extremely philosophically and emotionally satisfying to me.

"So I wouldn't say, not for a moment, would I have chosen to have been free and not have those victories, not for a moment."

Mr Assange told Geia he was adamant he would survive the current situation. "I don't have time to stop and reflect about how I'm feeling . . . this is the safest place for me to be right now," he said.

He said WikiLeaks could become an issue at the coming federal election and that support for his cause was as strong as ever.

"Opinion poll after opinion poll shows support for WikiLeaks . . . there's an electoral incentive for them to say 'hands off WikiLeaks'," he said.

Geia, who got the interview by "rocking up and knocking on the door", disputed claims that activist group GetUp conducted the first face-to-face interview.

"In fact, according to Assange's office I was the first journalist (from a country where English is the official language) to interview Julian Assange," he said.

Sourced:  The Australian

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