US, Australia sign a new defence pact

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 16:24

Melbourne: US and Australia wednesday updated
their security pact by signing an agreement to expand American military presence in the country, with the visiting President
Barack Obama asserting that it was a commitment to entire Asia Pacific region.

The new defence pact unveiled at a joint press
conference, held by Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia
Gillard, will allow upto 250 US marines to be stationed in
northern Australia beginning next year and comes amid mounting
concern in the region over an increasingly militarily
assertive China.

The new agreement updating a 60-year-old security
alliance between the two nations was signed soon after Obama
landed in the Australian capital Canberra on a twice-postponed
visit, during which the two countries also exchanged briefs on
China`s rapid rise as a global economic power house.

In the run-up to the signing of the pact, Obama said
Washington did not fear China or was not working to block
Beijing`s rise from American economic alliances in the Asia
Pacific region, but wanted to send a clear message to them
that China has to accept responsibilities that come with being
a world power.

The US-Australia pact comes in the wake of growing
concerns of China`s smaller neighbours over its claims to vast
stretches of the strategic South China Sea, which Washington
considers international waters.

On the pact, Obama said the new US deployment to
Australia was important to assuage partners in the Pacific
region that "we have the presence that is necessary to
maintain the security architecture of the region."

Providing details of the agreement, Australian Prime
Minister said, "It was aimed to expand the existing collaboration between the Australian defence forces and US marine force and the American air force."

"What it means is that by mid 2012 Australia will host a
company-sized rotation of 200-250 marines in the northern
territory for around six months at a time."

Gillard hinted that in the years to come, Australia
intended to build on this in a staged manner.

The American President on the last leg of his Pacific
tour apparently has hardened his tone on China, expressing
frustration at Beijing`s failure to allow its currency Yuan to
reach a fair market level.

The president arrived in Australia after an Asia Pacific
economic summit he hosted in Hawaii, where the main focus was
an agreement for a trans-Pacific trade block and concerns
voiced by the nations of the region over Chinese economic and
military assertiveness.

Washington itself has been having almost a running battle
with Beijing over the protection to Yuan and has accused China
for undervaluing its currency, making the country`s export
cheaper.

China had a USD 273 billion trade surplus with the US
last year and American lawmakers complained that the trade
imbalance is hurting American manufacturers and taking aways
American jobs.

And giving vent to these feelings, Obama asked Beijing to
rethink its attitude to global trade, saying in a hard-hitting
tone, "It is important for them to play by the rules on the
road."

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 16:24

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