Obama in Australia: US is a “Pacific Power”

In a speech to the Australian parliament on Wednesday, President Obama described the US as a “Pacific power“; he added that “we are here to stay” and emphasized that the Asia-Pacific region is the US’s “top priority.” Obama — who spent much of his early life in the region, in Hawai’i and Indonesia — also said that,

“Asian immigrants helped build America, and millions of American families, including my own, cherish our ties to this region.”

As a sign of this, Obama announced that, by 2016, the US will station a full military base with 2,500 troops in the northern town of Darwin, which he visited on Thursday.

While Obama was given a warm welcome by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who described him “as a friend and an ally as well,” opposition leader Tony Abbott questioned the US President’s leadership and also that of Gillard.

The plan to expand the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region has angered China, which has accused Obama of escalating military tensions in the region. “It may not be quite appropriate to intensify and expand military alliances and may not be in the interest of countries within this region,” said Liu Weimin, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The agreement with Australia will be the first time since the end of the Vietnam War that the US has expanded its military presence in the Pacific and comes at a time when the Pentagon is facing deep budget cuts. The ongoing fight about the US deficit in Congress indeed leaves the “strength of the US commitment in some doubt” even though Obama said that those budget cuts will not “come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific”:

While the new military commitment is relatively modest, Mr. Obama has promoted it as the cornerstone of a strategy to confront more directly the challenge posed by China’s rapid advance as an economic and military power. He has also made some progress in creating a new Pacific free-trade zone [the the Trans-Pacific Partnership] that would give America’s free-market allies in the region some trading privileges that do not immediately extend to China.

Mr. Obama described the deployment as responding to the wishes of democratic allies in the region, from Japan to India. Some allies have expressed concerns that the United States, facing war fatigue and a slackened economy, will cede its leadership role to China.

Saying that “the notion that we fear China is mistaken; the notion that we are looking to exclude China is mistaken,” Obama said that China would be welcome to join the new free-trade zone provided that it meets free-trade standards for membership.  These would require that China allow its currency to rise in value,  to offer better protection for the intellectual property rights of foreign producers and to limit or put an end to subsidies to state-owned companies — all of which would require a “major overhaul” of China’s economic development policies.

China has not offered official recognition about how its own “assertive behavior” in the region has led to conditions that have allowed the US to assert itself, including

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s comments at the 2010 ASEAN Regional Forum that “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact”; the continued sparring between Chinese vessels and those of its neighbors in the East and South China Sea; and the general unattractive nationalist rhetoric of Beijing’s official newspapers warning that if countries in Asia “don’t want to change their ways” they will need to “prepare for the sound of cannons.”

Some analysts have expressed concerns that US military expansion in the Pacific could backfire and lead to a “cold war-style standoff” with China. Others comment that, if Obama is confronting China, such is an “inevitable consequence of being a power in the region.” There is no question that China is the heavyweight there and, with its economy thriving as those of US and of Europe struggle and slump, that China is charting its path to be dominant on the global stage. In asserting the US’s presence in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, Obama is taking the long view and thinking beyond his own presidency, as BBC editor Mark Mardell says:

President Obama thinks he sees the big picture and where America’s long-term interests lie. The Pacific region gives him a chance to practise his doctrine of leadership through alliances.

But it is also a region with some big, tough and seemingly intractable problems.

What sort of leadership America provides and with what aims will be a critical question not only for him but presidents to come.


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Photo od Darwin's Fort Hill Wharf by kenhodge13


Eric E.
Eric E.6 years ago

I agree with half the comments, but if you voted for Obama and NOW are not happy with him, well all I can say is thanks a lot for putting this "bafoon" in the White House!! Of course he has lied and strayed away from campaign promises, did you expect him not to? As far as I'm concerned, let's bring some troops home, don't start any new wars, BUT DO NOT DECREASE OUR DEFENSE BUDGET, PERIOD!! Let's protect ourselves FROM OUR OWN SHORES!

Virginia B.
Virginia B6 years ago

It seems to me that Obama is following right along in Bush's footsteps! The last thing we need is more far-flung military engagements and billions spent in outfitting new bases, fortifications, weaponry, etc. With all of his departures from his campaign promises and his slavishly following the bad financial advice of left-over Bush II advisors, I don't recognize the man I voted for!

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

Are things so bad for the US that we had to invade Australia, but you have to admit, the nightlife is better and the women are so hot, sorry gals.

Silly me, my wife tells me that it is all about a new naval base, now that is really bad news. Look out China, the dragon is breathing at your back door.

Someday, one of these countries are going to swat us down, it is time for America to cease being the bully in the school yard.

Maybe I should be a good American and just let the men in those smoke filled backrooms in Washington run the show, after all, they did such a good job in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perhaps they can keep the price below a couple of Trillion $$$ this time.

M.E. W.
Mary W6 years ago

Yikes- don't know how that previous comment got posted w/ my name!

What I intended to write was that I could not be more opposed to the continuation of the archaic paradigm that believes we must have a military presence (anywhere). There are so many better ways to spend taxpayer money than funding the war machine. President Obama disappoints me.

M.E. W.
Mary W6 years ago

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don wreford
don wreford6 years ago

If America desires to be seen as a threat to Chinese military dominance using bases in Australia, they can use nuclear missiles from the USA submarines and planes airborne 24 hours a day, with nuclear armaments, I suggest they use these possibilities in answer to war with China, considering normal warfare i.e. say trench warfare, if that's not to old fashioned, 300 million USA citizens to 1300 million Chinese, the Chinese are in a position to sustain huge losses which would be a bonus for them to reduce their population in terms of feeding and energy consumed, when the romance is over with all the trappings of modernization for China, the main concern of the ruling elite is the threat within its own society, as one daily witnesses the strife and riots, virtually a daily occurrence, in the West and Middle East and elsewhere, the Banking syndicate has to enforce its tyranny and oppress and destroy the morale of the 99% as far as it is able, as you are well aware the conduit of enforcement of this programme is fear, at the disposal of the Elite is, Police, military, media, money, politicians, religion, the Tavistock intelligentsia directives in particular the use of saboteurs, in a nut shell a formidable force to be reckoned with, that is brutal, depraved, corrupt and primarily with no conscience.
The sequel is beyond human imagination, one thing to remember in such an outcome is not to rely on God with your prayers, He is notorious in hard of hearing and having been around

Michael Dewey
Micahel Dewey6 years ago

When we start to focus on Peaceful Solutions, America will then fulfill its high calling of showing the world by example how things are done right. As Ike said about every warship etc, basicaslly being a mouthful of food stolen from a starving child.

joanna e.
joanna e6 years ago

If you didn't hear his speech you missed a good one.
It is about time someone gave the Aussies their praise since they always come to our assistance. Their audience clapped for a long time; It certainly made you see all the praise that goes unnoticed for our President in our country.

Jim Gayden
Jim Gayden6 years ago

Plan accordingly. What is China's ultimate goal? What is at stake here? Do we want China to have world domination? Are we going to just let that happen? Anyone who believes that Obama is 'the one' who is responsible for this occurrence is being naive. The powers that be see America as a resource to be used, primarily as the world police, and natural resources. They are going to protect their own best interests at all costs, with little concern for anybody elses opinions. There are many complex factors involved here, that apparently, many are not aware of. The simple fact of the matter though, is that they are going to take advantage of our military, because it doesn't make sense to them that we bring home all those bodies that need to be housed, fed, clothed, etc., because it will just increase our economic load. It's not like this military presence will be deployed any time soon. So strategicaly, I think it is a pretty smart move.

Bruce S.
Bruce S6 years ago

Obama in Australia: US is a “Pacific Power”....nut not since WWII.