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US to base Marines in Australia, rankling China
by Staff Writers
Canberra (AFP) Nov 16, 2011

China state media chides Obama on Asia visit
Shanghai (AFP) Nov 16, 2011 - China's state news agency on Wednesday accused US President Barack Obama of trying to win votes by using his diplomatic ambitions in Asia to detract from his country's economic woes.

As the American leader arrived in Australia ahead of a key summit later in the week, Xinhua said the United States had "yet to reassure the region its Asia-Pacific policy would effectively serve regional stability and prosperity".

"Obama, whose job approval rating continues to slip, seems to be staking his reelection on high-profile diplomatic ambitions in Asia Pacific, as he is failing to bring America's slack economy back to the path of strong growth in his first term," it said in a commentary.

The remarks, the second time in three days that China's official media has criticised Obama by name, came hours after he touched down on an official visit to ally Australia.

From there, he will head to the Indonesian island of Bali to attend the annual East Asia Summit, which the United States will join this week -- a move some countries in the region have welcomed as a counter to China's growing assertiveness.

The United States will hold presidential elections in November next year and some Republican candidates have used China as a political issue to attack the incumbent Obama, tapping into worries about the rising Asian power.

Xinhua late Monday also blasted Obama for "scapegoating" Beijing for his country's economic woes after he hit out at China's currency, which the United States believe is undervalued, giving it an unfair trade advantage.

The latest commentary called on the United States to concentrate on its own economy and accused Washington of stoking security tensions in Asia and meddling in regional maritime disputes.

"The United States should first put its own economic house in order," it said, adding: "The United States has yet to reassure the region that its Asia-Pacific policy would effectively serve regional stability and prosperity."

While visiting Australia, Obama will update a 60-year-old security alliance with the long-time ally as the US plans to deploy Marines in the country from mid-2012.

China's foreign ministry said Wednesday that sending US troops to northern Australia "may not be quite appropriate", pouring cool water on Obama's description of the move as a commitment to the region.

The United States will deploy up to 2,500 Marines to Australia as the nations expand their 60-year-old military alliance, President Barack Obama said Wednesday in a move that rankled China.

Stressing the rising economic influence of the Asia-Pacific, Obama told reporters in Canberra he was stepping up Washington's commitment to the region, undaunted by China, which he said America did not fear.

"The notion that we fear China is a mistake. The notion that we are looking to exclude China is a mistake," Obama said.

The self-declared "Pacific President" told reporters at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard that when it came to the fast-growing region: "We are here to stay."

"This is a region of huge strategic importance to us," he said.

"And we are going to make sure that we are able to fulfil our leadership goal in the Asia-Pacific region."

The deployment of US Marines to Australia's tropical north came as the allies adapted their military posture to face a new security era marked by the rise of China, which sparked an immediate negative response from Beijing.

"It may not be quite appropriate to intensify and expand military alliances and may not be in the interest of countries within this region," China's foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.

The first deployment of around 250 US Marines will be sent to Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory in mid-2012, kicking off a rotating six-month presence of as many as 2,500 US troops Down Under.

"It is a new agreement to expand the existing collaboration between the Australian Defence Force and the US Marine Corps and the US Air Force," Gillard said.

"Over a number of years we intend to build on this in a staged way."

The troops will conduct exercises and training on a rotational basis on Australian bases with the Australian Defence Force as the US rebalances its military in Asia and draws down forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The leaders also agreed to enhance cooperation between their air forces that will result in increased rotations of US aircraft through northern Australia, which is closer to Asia than it is to Sydney and Melbourne.

Obama said the announcement of the joint task force and his trip to the booming Asia-Pacific, which began Wednesday with his arrival in Canberra, sent a clear signal to America's allies in the region.

"We are two Pacific nations and with my visit to the region I am making it clear that the United States is stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia-Pacific," he said.

"This deepening of our alliance sends a clear message of our commitment to this region, a commitment that is enduring and unwavering," he added ahead of the East Asia Summit in Bali later this week.

Washington appears to be sending a signal to China and its expanding military with its deployment in Australia, but also wants to extend its capability to deploy for disaster relief missions in Southeast Asia.

Obama insisted that the boosted military alliance should not be seen as a threat to China.

The US leader added that Washington had no desire to exclude China from a new initiative to frame a Trans-Pacific Partnership to better integrate the region's booming economies to promote growth.

But he said that to join the grouping once it is up and running in the future, Beijing would have to live up to international standards on issues like copyright enforcement and intellectual property.

Obama has hardened his tone on China in recent weeks, expressing frustration at Beijing's failure to do more to allow the yuan to reach a fair market level and venting at China's performance on protecting US innovation.

"The main message that I've said not only publicly but also privately to the Chinese is that with their rise comes increased responsibility," he said.

China is a major trading partner for Australia, where its voracious demand for minerals and energy has helped underpin the national economy's strength.

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US does not fear China: Obama
Canberra (AFP) Nov 16, 2011 - US President Barack Obama insisted Wednesday the United States did not fear rising China and was not plotting to exclude it from a nascent and potentially powerful new pan-Pacific trade bloc.

Obama bluntly spelled out his evolving policy towards Beijing in Australia on the latest leg of a Pacific tour that has bared divisions between the two giant powers on trade, currency and some geopolitical questions.

"I think the notion that we fear China is mistaken. The notion that we are looking to exclude China is mistaken," said Obama at a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra.

The president also again revealed frustration over China's economic policies, saying Beijing would have to "rethink" trade practices if it wanted to join 12 nations negotiating the new Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Beijing has expressed scepticism about the standards required of potential TPP members as a ticket to join a pact envisaged by the United States as a cornerstone of the future economic and political architecture of Asia.

"Now, if China says, we want to consult with you about being part of this as well, we welcome that," Obama said, but warned Beijing would have to measure up to a "clear set of principles that all of us can abide by."

"The main message that I've said not only publicly but also privately to China is that with their rise comes increased responsibility," Obama said.

"It is important for them to play by the rules of the road."

The TPP will be designed to better integrate regional economies across the dynamic Pacific region, and analysts say it could have a powerful impact on growth rates.

But the talks on setting up the pact look likely to be taxing as Asian governments will have to accept new rules for state-owned firms and agree to tariffs on agriculture and the US will have to dismantle protectionist barriers.

Obama's comments were his most clear statement yet of his China policy, which has evolved from a desire to engage Beijing over a wide area in his first year in office, to the current more confrontational stance.

The president is also being assailed by Republican presidential candidates over China, but his position seems more a response to three years of frustration with Beijing rather than an effort to shore up his political flank.

Obama argues China is keeping its yuan currency artificially low to support its exports to the detriment of US industry, and accuses it of eroding the US competitive edge by failing to protect intellectual property rights.

The president started his Pacific tour in Hawaii by hosting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, at which the concept of the TPP gathered momentum.

In Australia, he and Gillard announced a deployment of up to 2,500 US Marines to Darwin, in a signal of Washington's desire to stand up for its allies in the region.

Analysts see the Australian deployment and a US effort to pivot to Asia after a decade of misery in the Middle East, as a recognition that the next US foreign policy challenge will come from China in the 21st Century.

"This is a growing region. It is a vital region. The United States is going to be a huge participant in both economic and security issues in the Asia Pacific region," Obama said.


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US joins East Asia summit in challenge to China
Nusa Dua, Indonesia (AFP) Nov 15, 2011
The United States joins an East Asian pact this week, yoking a diplomatic offensive to assert itself as a Pacific power with the interests of countries wary of China's emerging might. The 16-nation East Asia Summit, which already includes China, India and Japan, will expand by two members as US President Barack Obama formally takes his seat together with Russia, expected to be represented by ... read more

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