The information has come from US embassy cables given to Fairfax media by Wikileaks. The Chinese offer came at the end of 2007 but was rejected by East Timorese officials after they consulted with the US and Australia. According to the cables, which have not been seen by the ABC, East Timor's Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres was the official who told the US embassy about the Chinese radar offer.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speaker: Jose Luis Guterres, East Timor's Deputy Prime Minister
COCHRANE: First of all can you tell us what was this offer from China in regards to the radar station?
GUTERRES: From what I know there was never any offer from the government of China to build radar systems in Timor. But what I know is that some companies from China were willing to supply, at commercial basis, a radar system. So that's what I know, and this issue has never come to the Council of Ministers to decide to accept or not.
COCHRANE: Mr Guterres the article in The Age newspaper and Sydney Morning Herald this morning actually mentions you specifically, saying that you were the one who went to the US Embassy to discuss the issue and to discuss your concerns that the radar could be used for spying essentially. Is that the case?
GUTERRES: No first if this comes from WikiLeaks I only can say that first I cannot comment on the content of any cables that are coming from diplomatic mission of any embassy in any country. The second one is that our policy in terms of defence cooperation with any country is open, it's not secret. And I want to mention to you that when I was at Boao forum in China just last year, I had stated clearly to everybody, foreign dignitaries there including Chinese, that if Timor was willing to cooperate with China and any country at a military or economic level, we don't hide any cooperation of any country, including the United States of America, with Australia, Indonesia or other country.
COCHRANE: Can you give us a little bit more detail on the offer that was made though, the Chinese offer for radars? You say that it was private companies involves, can you tell us a bit more about it?
GUTERRES: Well at the time we were thinking of having the naval capabilities, and the naval capabilities the Chinese companies were willing to supply and then later we did buy the two patrol boats from China. But in terms of radar assistance, there was never an issue at the government level to decide if we would buy for them or not. But in terms of analysis of the needs of our naval force, you have to have the capabilities for radar, all the country in order to detect any illegal fishing or any illegal entry to our international waters. This also comes in line with the cooperation that we have to have with our neighbours, Australia and Indonesia, because if East Timor waters are secure, the waters in Indonesia ... we would contribute to a more secure line in the Indonesian waters and the Australian waters.
COCHRANE: Well let's perhaps move to a different topic now. Yesterday you were cleared in a district court of corruption charges that have hung over your head for some time. The accusation was that while you were East Timor's ambassador to the United Nations in 2006, the accusation was you improperly gave your wife a diplomatic job. Your reaction to the verdict?
GUTERRES: First that was not the accusation, the accusation was that illegally I nominated my wife to the diplomatic job while I was foreign minister, but in fact the court ruled that it was not me, and all the accusations that were initially started by the opposition party in the parliament and then went to and then later to general prosecutor's office, and yesterday the district court cleared for any wrongdoing and I am happy with that decision. And as I always mentioned I did not do any wrong, participate in any illegal decision while I was foreign minister of East Timor.
COCHRANE: This was a decision in a district court, I mean it could go further. Do you think this will be the end of this issue?
GUTERRES: The question here is that there is no illegality, there is no law I committed any crime in, so it can go anywhere but if there is no crime when there is no law that says there is a crime. So I'm prepared for anything.
COCHRANE: Ok while I've got you on the line I'd really like to get your thoughts on yet another topic; after floating the idea of setting up an aslyum seeker processing centre in East Timor, Australia is now looking at a facility in Papua New Guinea as well as a people-swap deal with Malaysia that you've no doubt heard about this week. Now is this a relief for East Timor that the pressure to setup a facility has gone to another country?
GUTERRES: I think the relief will be if we as a community in this region, together with Australia and neighbouring countries, we can solve this problem of illegal trafficking of people to Australia. So the question always was that East Timor was not prepared to host these facilities, but we have said also that we were prepared also to give our contribution, including financial contribution for this to happen if any other countries accepted it. So our basic position is yes, we want to combat trafficking, and we want to help Australia also and all our neighbouring countries, and we are prepared to give our contribution as it is possible for us.