Raw Story (via AFP)
US and Australian ministers sought to bolster security ties at annual talks Wednesday, as the American military seeks greater access to the country’s bases in a strategic tilt to the Pacific.
Anxious over China’s growing military might and territorial tensions with its neighbours, US officials are pushing for a more visible military role across the region.
This includes expanding exercises and deploying more advanced ships and hardware to Southeast Asia.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith welcomed the deployment of US Marines this year in Australia’s north and said he and counterpart Leon Panetta were looking at opening up access to more bases and ports for US aircraft and warships.
“We look forward today to discussions about the potential for enhanced aviation and aerial access to our Northern Territory RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) bases and also in due course advanced naval access to HMAS Stirling,” Smith told reporters, referring to the base south of Perth.
Smith said holding the annual strategic discussions between the two nations in the western coastal city underlined the growing importance of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, home to vital shipping lanes and growing economies.
“Here you see the world moving to the Asia-Pacific, the world moving to the Indo-Pacific not just with security implications but with enormous economic investment and prosperity,” he said.
Before Wednesday’s meeting, which gathers foreign and defence ministers from each country, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed that the US was fully committed to its pivot to Asia over the long term, despite crises in the Middle East and fiscal pressures at home.
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