Nov. 17 - U.S. President Barack Obama says U.S. military will expand its role in the Asia-Pacific. Marie-Claire Fennessy reports.
**~ The U.S. is here to stay in the Asia Pacific region. The message, US President Barack Obama told the Australian parliament during his address in Canberra on Thursday. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARACK OBAMA, SAYING: "The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay. Indeed, we are already modernising America's defence posture across the Asia Pacific. It will be more broadly distributed, maintaining our strong presence in Japan and the Korean peninsula, while enhancing our presence in South-East Asia." This could please some U.S. Asian allies, nervous of China's growing clout. Obama announced a new de facto U.S. base in Australia, something China has voiced misgivings about. The president acknowledged China's unease at what it sees as attempts by Washington to encircle it. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARACK OBAMA, SAYING: (PART OVERLAID WITH VISION OF POLITICIANS LISTENING) "And we'll seek more opportunities for cooperation with Beijing, including greater communication between our militaries to promote understanding and avoid miscalculation. We will do this even as we continue to speak candidly to Beijing about the importance of upholding international norms and respecting the universal human rights of the Chinese people." Later, Obama met U.S. and Australian troops in Darwin. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARACK OBAMA, SAYING: "So, we're deepening our alliance, and this is the perfect place to do it. I know the training conditions around here are tough. At least that's what I've heard. Big, open spaces. Harsh weather. Mozzies. Snakes. Crocs. In fact, I was just presented with the most unique gift I've ever received as President -- crocodile insurance." The U.S. will send marines, naval ships and aircraft to northern Australia from 2012. The task force will reach a total of 2, 500 U.S. troops by 2016, small compared to the 28,000 stationed in South Korea. But the presence in Darwin, only 820 km from Indonesia, will allow the United States to quickly reach into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. Marie-Claire Fennessy, Reuters