US to up military presence in Asia
Mon, Nov 08, 2010
my paper

THE United States military plans to bolster its presence across Asia and is looking at an expansion of ties with Australia's armed forces, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said.

Building up defence cooperation with Australia would reinforce a broader effort to extend the US military's role across the Asia-Pacific region, Mr Gates told reporters aboard his plane last Saturday, before landing in Melbourne.

"We're looking at ways to strengthen and perhaps make more robust our presence in Asia," Mr Gates said, referring to a Pentagon review of how American forces are deployed around the world.

"We're looking at a number of different options, one of those includes talking with the Australians about... areas where we can work together in a mutually beneficial way," he said.

At an annual Australia-US meeting in Melbourne, Mr Gates said the two governments would discuss deepening military ties, including cooperation on cyber-security, missile defence and "space surveillance".

But he said there were no plans for new US bases in Australia or elsewhere in the region.

The discussions in Australia come amid concern over China's increasingly assertive stance in the Pacific and its growing naval power, with some Asian states turning to Washington for support.

China's role was expected to feature high on the agenda at today's talks and the allies hoped China could be a "force for good" in the world, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday.

"I think we will be talking about the geopolitics of our region, and that means of course we'll be talking about the rise of China and as China rises, what sort of force it is going to be in the world," Ms Gillard told commercial television.

"I believe we have a shared perspective with the United States that we want China to be a force for good, strongly engaged in global and regional architecture, strongly engaged in a rules-based framework."

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith said China's rise had been much quicker and stronger than anticipated and stressed that it needed to be open about its objectives as it "eclipsed" the military might of the US.

"We have made the point to China, both privately and publicly, that there does need to be transparency about China's military strategy," Mr Smith told ABC television.

"Australia believes that China will emerge, to use the Chinese phrase, into a harmonious environment. It will be a responsible international stakeholder.

And that's what we want to see," he added.

But Mr Gates insisted US plans in the region were not designed as a counterweight to China.

"This isn't about China at all," he said.

The US had an interest in building military ties with Asian countries to combat piracy at sea, bolster counter-terrorism efforts and provide humanitarian relief for natural disasters, he said.

The Pentagon chief added that cooperation on humanitarian operations had come up in talks with China's military as well.

His comments came as US military leaders consider moving more forces to South-east Asia and the Indian Ocean, home to vital shipping lanes, and beyond the longstanding American presence in South Korea and Japan.

A senior defence official said the Pentagon is "looking at how we can make sure our forces are not just oriented in North-east Asia, but are looking through down to South-east Asia and then into the Indian Ocean as this part of the security environment becomes more important".

Boosting US access to Australian bases, if agreed, would likely mean a larger American presence but precise numbers remained unclear, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

During the summit, defence chiefs are due to sign an agreement to bolster joint efforts to track objects in space over the Southern Hemisphere, including satellites, space junk and potential ballistic missiles fired from North Korea, officials said.

The "space situational awareness partnership agreement" could allow for an expanded American role at the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station in Western Australia, which the US military already uses.

Australia's military alliance with the US has deep roots and the country remains a top buyer of American weaponry, with US military sales to Australia reaching US$1.45 billion (S$1.9 billion)this year.

For more my paper stories click here.

Bookmark and Share
  It's back to normal for most Jakarta flights
  US to up military presence in Asia
  Myanmar counts votes in poll marred by fraud fears
  Young Canada asylum-seeker was disguised as old man
  Yogya flight suspension forces travelers to take train
  Web video of collision 'authentic'
  Web video of collision 'authentic'
  Tens of thousands rally in S.Korea against G20 summit
  16 smokers nabbed as Saudi implements airport cigarette ban
  Rescue helicopter crashes near Everest
Soldiers to stand trial over torture
Myanmar opposition accuse pro-junta party of election fraud
US Republicans vow to battle Obama
Football: Australia say they have winning 2022 WCup bid
Gillard supports drug smuggler's plea to Yudhoyono

Elsewhere in AsiaOne...

Investor Relations: If the US goes into a recession...

Wine,Dine&Unwind: Smith Street Food Complex reopens after two years

Health: Obesity rates will reach 42 per cent

Motoring: Mazda shares slip on news Ford to wind down stake

Digital: For (illegal) online sale: One SAF helmet

Business: Nikkei up nearly 3 pct, books best week in year

Just Women: New talent:the siblings

Multimedia: Australia bushfires kill 14