Obama's Trip To Australia Highlights U.S. Foreign Policy Shift
During a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the president announced the agreement that will increase America’s military presence in the region. Currently there are 200-250 U.S. Marines stationed to Australia for military exercises and training. It is expected that the number will reach 2,500 over the next several years, according to CNN.
The president arrived in Australia after taking a tough rhetorical stance against China at last week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Obama criticized China saying that it must “play by the rules” in order to help strengthen the world economy, The Washington Post reported.
Analysts note that building a permanent military presence in Australia sends a clear message to China, although in a less confrontational way then building up bases closer to Chinese shoresm, according to CNN.
In a telling statement during the press conference, Obama said, “The United States of America has no stronger ally than Australia. We are bound by common values, the rights and the freedoms that we cherish. And for nearly a century, we’ve stood together in defense of these freedoms. And I'm very happy to be here as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of our alliance, and as we work together to strengthen it for the future.”
Some in Australia are unhappy about the expanded American military presence in Australia. In an op-ed piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Hartcher wrote, “The US President comes to Australia fresh from his latest argument with the Chinese over trade and currency. His visit to Canberra will carry an implicit invitation, and perhaps even an explicit one in closed-door talks, to take America's side more fully here, too. It's an invitation Australia should politely, but firmly, refuse.”
However, Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith had a different opinion. In an interview with Bloomberg, Smith said, “It’s possible for Australia to have an alliance relationship with the U.S. and a comprehensive bilateral relationship with China,” said Smith, a federal lawmaker representing voters in Perth, where he has been the member since 1993. “This is not a zero sum game.”
This is Obama’s first trip to Australia since taking office. The president will stay in Australia for two days before leaving for Indonesia for the East Asia Summit to conclude his nine-day trip.
When the president arrived in Australia he was honored with a 21-gun salute at the Parliament House. While there he signed the visitors book with this message:
“To the people of Australia, with whom we have stood together for a century of progress and sacrifice. On this 60th Anniversary of our Alliance, we resolve that our bonds will never be broken, and our friendship will last for all time.”
Reach Reporter Jackie Mansky here
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