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Obama Says U.S. Will Maintain Pacific Presence

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2011 – Cost-cutting initiatives to impact the armed forces won’t come at the cost of the U.S. presence in Asia and the Pacific, President Barack Obama said today in Canberra during an address to the Australian Parliament.

“My guidance is clear,” the president told the assembly during his two-day visit to Australia. “As we plan and budget for the future, we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region. We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace. We will keep our commitments, including our treaty obligations to allies like Australia.

“And we will constantly strengthen our capabilities to meet the needs of the 21st century,” he continued. “Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in the region. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.”

Obama praised plans to expand the U.S.-Australian alliance, citing new initiatives he said will bring their two militaries closer together.

“We’ll have new opportunities to train with other allies and partners, from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean,” he said. “And it will allow us to respond faster to the full range of challenges, including humanitarian crises and disaster relief.”

Obama said the expanded U.S. presence will have impact throughout the region: in Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia, and against threats such as North Korea.

The president said the United States will continue efforts to build a cooperative relationship with China.

The United States and Australia have maintained a decades-long security alliance evident today in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.

“From the trenches of the First World War to the mountains of Afghanistan, Aussies and Americans have stood together, we have fought together, we have given lives together in every single major conflict of the past hundred years,” Obama told the assembly. “Every single one.”

This solidarity, he said, has sustained the two countries through a difficult decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“In the United States, we will never forget how Australia invoked the [Australia-New Zealand-U.S.] Treaty for the first time ever, showing that our two nations stood as one,” the president said. “And none of us will ever forget those we’ve lost to al-Qaida’s terror in the years since, including innocent Australians.”

Obama noted that Australia is the largest troop contributor outside of NATO to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Australia’s commitment in Afghanistan, he added, is a key component in achieving success there.

A transition is taking place in Afghanistan, Obama said, with Afghans assuming increasing responsibility for their security so coalition forces can return home.

“With partners like Australia, we’ve struck major blows against al-Qaida and put that terrorist organization on the path to defeat, including delivering justice to Osama bin Laden,” the president said.

Obama also emphasized the two countries’ commitment to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

“As two global partners, we stand up for the security and the dignity of people around the world,” he said. “This is the alliance we reaffirm today, rooted in our values, [and] renewed by every generation.”

Obama said the U.S.-Australia alliance has never been stronger.

The president visited the Royal Army Air Force Base in Darwin later in the day to thank Australian military members and a contingent of U.S. Marines who he called the backbone of their two countries’ 60-year alliance.

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