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Saturday, September 24, 2011

U.S. to expand military presence in Australia to counter China

An emerging defense agreement would let the U.S. expand its military presence in Australia as the Obama administration and its allies maneuver to counter an increasingly assertive China.

It would include positioning U.S. equipment in Australia, increasing access to bases and conducting more joint exercises and training.

The arrangement, somewhat controversial in Australia, is expected to be a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s visit to the country in November.

Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith said the broader cooperation will mean “more ships in, ships out; more planes in, planes out; more troops in, troops out.”

The U.S. and Australia expect to finalize the plan later this year, according to a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the arrangement was not complete.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Thursday with Australian defense chief Stephen Smith and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd for talks on the basing arrangement, military cooperation in the Pacific region and other issues. more