President Carter and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser agreed yesterday on the current goal of seeking a freeze, or "balance," of American and Soviet military gorces in the Indian Ocean.
The comments by the President and the visiting Australian leader showed that U.S. objectives have been downgraded in the American-Soviet talks on the Indian Ocean, which began in Moscow yesterday.
The initial Carter target was "complete demilitarization" of the Indian Ocean.
A reduced American goal in the Moscow talks was also confirmed indirectly by Paul C. Warnke, chief U.S. negotiator in the talks. As they begin, Warnke said there is no substantial military competition in the Indian Ocean. "We would like to keep it that way," he added.
Moscow broadcasts yesterday retierated the Soviet contention that the only foreign military base in the region is the American military installation on the island of Diego Garcia.
Western officials counter that the Russians have a naval base in Somalia. The Soviet Union and Somalia insist it is not "a base," and that the Soviets have only naval transit rights.
Australia, which relies on American military power, strongly supported the U.S. base on British-owned Diego Garcia. The Carter administration's talk of demilitarizing the region, plus its plans for withdrawing American ground troops from South Korea, has troubled Fraser's government.
President Carter assured Fraser yesterday, White House press secretary Jody Powell said, that the United States will remain "a major power in Asia and the Pacific and would maintain a strong security position in the region."
After his talks with Fraser, the President told newsmen that in the current Moscow talks on the Indian Ocean, the United States seeks agreement to "stabilize the status quo and refrain from further (military) escalation."
He said this position is "strongly supported by Australia."
Fraser, who received a full ceremonial reception said, "I have been encouraged by the totality of my discussions with President Carter." He also had private talks with Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, Defense Secretary Harold Brown and the President's chief energy adviser, James R. Schlesinger.
There recently was an uproar in Australia over charges by former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, leader of the Labor Party, that while he was in office, 1972-1975, the American Central Intelligence Agency interfered in Australian affairs without his knowledge.
Fraser said at a Blair House news conference that "the President has made it perfectly plain that the CIA does not pursue inappropriate or improper activities in Australia."
Carter earlier told reporters he reassured Fraser there will be "absolutely no intelligence operations that are not shared by, and well-known to the Australian leaders."
Australia has 20 per cent of the non-Communist world's uranium resources, and coordination of nuclear non-proliferation policy was a central issue ain Fraser's talks here.
Carter lauded Australia for having "the strictest possible regulations to protect the world from the further proliferation of atomic explosives."
Australia for several years has embargoed any new exports of uranium while studying the consequences. Its policy affect the Carter administration's objective, of heading-off world nuclear power development of "breeder reactors" that increase the supply of plutonium, which could be diverted to weapons.
Fraser said Australia's uranium rescources "could be very important for Europe . . . in fulfillment of U.S. objectives to hold back the plutonium stage of nuclear energy."
He said there are "at least two groups in Europe who are interested in "some kind of partnership" with Australia for a uranium enrichment plant. He said this is "a matter of further discussions with the United States and also, perhaps, with Japan."
Fraser also indicated that Australia will attempt to coordinate its uranium export and safeguard policy with the Carter administration to the maximum extent possible.