Perth: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Australia today before a summit about deepening defense links between Australia and the United States.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is scheduled to arrive later. They`ll meet with Prime Minister Julia Gillard today and with Defense Minister Stephen Smith and Foreign Minister Bob Carr the next day.
The annual summit is the first since President Barack Obama visited Australia a year ago and riled China, Australia`s biggest trade partner, by announcing that up to 2,500 US Marines would rotate through a joint military training hub in the northern Australian city of Darwin.
The two countries also want to increase US military access to the Australian navy base south of Perth and to bombing ranges in the northern Outback as part of the shift of US might to the Asia-Pacific region.
Afghanistan will also feature in discussions. Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan and is the biggest military contributor to that campaign outside NATO.
At their last bilateral meeting a year ago, US and Australian officials decided to include cooperation on cybersecurity as part of their defense treaty. It was the first time that the Obama administration has carved out such a partnership outside NATO.
The agreement is partly in response to the cyberthreat emanating from the Asia-Pacific region, especially China and North Korea.
Clinton was greeted by Carr and Smith at Perth airport, along with Australian Ambassador to the US Kim Beazley and US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich.