Australia Mission Reflects Asia-Pacific Commitment, Officials Say
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2011 Defense officials detailed new military-to-military operations involving the United States and Australia that the two nations’ leaders announced today.
President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that next year, groups of 200 to 250 U.S. Marines will begin rotational six-month deployments near Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory. Gillard said the presence will expand to a force of 2,500 over the next several years.
Obama is in Australia in part to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Australia-New Zealand-U.S. alliance.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the new agreement “is a very important initiative that we've been working with our Australian allies on for some time.”
Both Obama and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta have emphasized during recent travels that the Asia-Pacific region is a U.S. top priority.
“We have a 60-year alliance with the Australians, and this is an effort to further our ties to the Australian military,” Little said. “This is a training and exercise presence that will be based over time.”
The focus of the Australia-based mission is to work closely with the Australian military on training and exercises, he added.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said the announcement reflects the U.S. commitment to allies and partners throughout the Asia-Pacific and to that part of the world.
“This is about our broader point, too: building a security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region that provides for the protection of U.S. interests and the interests of … our allies,” Little added.