In Australia, US Renews Focus on Asia-Pacific
by VOA News November 13, 2012
The United States is making sure there are no doubts about its intentions to remain a major player in the Asia Pacific region ahead of next week's visit by President Barack Obama.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Australia Tuesday for talks with Prime Minister Julia Gillard about the region, telling a gathering in the city of Perth "we are here to stay."
"It is no surprise that foreign investment is soaring, including more than $100 billion from the United States, because increasingly these waters are at the heart of the global economy, and a key focus of America's expanding engagement in the region,'' she said.
Clinton also reiterated Washington's military commitment to the region.
"We will be reviewing implementation of the military agreements that Prime Minister Gillard and President Obama reached last November, including the rotational deployment of U.S. Marines in Darwin and improving interoperability between our two Navies,'' Clinton said.
As part of the plan, 2,500 U.S. Marines will be deployed to a base in northern Australia.
China is in its once-in-a-decade leadership transition and tensions remain between China and other countries on territorial rights in the South China Sea.
Clinton spoke Tuesday at the opening of the University of Western Australia's U.S. Asia Center after meeting with Prime Minister Gillard, who said the U.S.-Australian partnership is as important as ever.
"The United States is the oldest of allies. We've been in an alliance for more than 60 years and we are good mates at every level. We share a strategic partnership and defense relationship, we share strong economic bonds,'' Gillard said.
The annual security summit officially gets under way Wednesday, when Clinton will be joined by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The two countries will also discuss plans to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Australia, which has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, is the biggest military contributor to the campaign outside NATO.
It could be the last time that Panetta visits Australia as defense secretary. He refused to speculate on whether he intends to step down as some expect or remain in the position during President Obama's second term, telling reporters: "Who the hell knows?"
It is also expected to be Clinton's last official trip to Australia as America's top diplomat, as she has stated that she wishes to step down at the end of Obama's first four-year term. Following the Australia visit, Clinton heads to Singapore on Friday, before accompanying President Obama on a tour of Southeast Asia.
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