Barack Obama to Deploy 2,500 Marines in Australia as He Says ‘We Do Not Fear China’

Barack Obama has unveiled plans to deploy 2500 Marines in northernAustraliabut insisted the move was not prompted by fear ofChina.

By Jonathan Pearlman inCanberra

During his first Presidential visit to Australia, Mr Obama and Julia Gillard announced an expanded military agreement under which theUS will station Marines inDarwin from next year. The deployment will expand from 250 to 2,500 Marines within five years – and American military aircraft will be allowed to operate from Australian air force bases.

Despite growing concerns across the region aboutChina’s increasing military capability, Mr Obama insisted the deployment was not targeted at counteringBeijing’s rise. But he pointedly called onChina‘to play by the rules of the road”.

“I think the notion that we fearChinais mistaken,” he said. “The notion that we are looking to excludeChinais mistaken… There are going to be times where they’re not [playing by the rules] and we will send a clear message to them that we think that they need to be on track.”

The planned deployment, however, drew a cool response fromChina, which called it unhelpful. “It may not be quite appropriate to intensify and expand military alliances and may not be in the interest of countries within this region,” said a foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin.

Though theUShas no permanent troop presence inAustralia, the build-up will be far lighter than American force levels inJapanandSouth Korea. In a somewhat symbolic move, the Marines will be based inDarwin, which was used by General Douglas MacArthur as a base in World War II to reclaim the Pacific from the Japanese.

The announcement comes amid a realignment of US forces across the Asia-Pacific, as the Pentagon reduces its presence in the Middle East and deploys planes and ships closer to crucial trading lines in theSouth China Sea. “This is a region of huge strategic importance to us,” Mr Obama said. “TheUnited Statesis stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia-Pacific region… We are here to stay.”

Ms Gillard said the enhanced cooperation between theUSandAustraliawould bolster “stability” in the region. “It will mean that we are postured to better respond together, along with other partners in the Asia Pacific, to any regional contingency including the provision of humanitarian assistance and dealing with natural disasters,” she said.

Mr Obama’s arrival inCanberrafollowed two previous trips to the country due to crises at home.

The President, who twice visited the country as a child when his mother was living inIndonesia, touched down aboard Air Force One and was greeted by Ms Gillard and the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce. He later attended a dinner to celebrate the 60th and admitted he was still struggling to master “strine” – a colloquial term forAustralia’s broad accent.

The Telegraph

16 Nov 2011

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