Obama, in Australia, outlines US intentions in Asia

Updated On: Nov 17, 2011

Addressing the Australian Parliament on Thursday, Barack Obama said that the US was a Pacific nation, promising to increase American economic and military engagement with the country, despite the budget problems confronting him in Washington.

In his first trip as president to Australia, Mr Obama announced that the US would deploy 250 troops to Darwin every six months, with numbers to increase to 2500 by 2016.

In addition, American military aircraft - including bombers, fighters, tankers and spy planes - will increase their use of the Tindall Air Force base. Further down the track, US ships and submarines will use the Stirling naval base near Perth.

The move is widely seen as a gesture to South East Asia to counter rising Chinese influence in the region, though

Mr. Obama said he had made a "deliberate and strategic decision" to focus on the region.

"As a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future, by upholding core principles and in close partnership with allies and friends," he said.

Report: US President Obama says Asia-Pacific is key to future [BBC News, 17 November 2011]

His speech came one day after a symbolic resolution marking the 60 year alliance between the US and Australia, which says the Senate backs "efforts to strengthen military, diplomatic, trade, economic, and people-to-people cooperation with Australia, including initiatives to positively shape the evolving strategic and economic environment that connects the Indian and the Pacific Oceans."

The US is keen to make the US mission in the region a top priority as security attention on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down. Although it remained unclear how Mr Obama would prioritise spending in the region, he vowed to allocate resources necessary to maintain a strong military presence in the region, while preserving America's "unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace."

Immediately, China questioned whether it was "in the interest of countries within this region" to intensify military alliances, and Indonesia also expressed its caution to the plans.

Despite its moves to increase its presence in the region, Mr Obama was keen to sidestep questions on whether the new security deal was intended to contain China's sea claims, saying, "The notion that we fear China is mistaken. The notion that we are looking to exclude China is mistaken. We welcome a rising, peaceful China."

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has made it clear it intends to air the South China Sea issue at the East Asian Summit this week in Bali, although China has said it does not want to discuss it.

Report: US to increase military presence in Australia [Independent, 17 November 2011]

Report: Obama, in Australia, Vows Deeper Regional Ties [WSJ, November 16 2011]

Report: Obama takes aim at China in new Asian world order [Sydney Morning Herald, 17 November 2011]

Related Article