Australia pact strains US-Chinese relations
CANBERRA, Australia / BEIJING - The Associated Press
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (R) speaks with US President Barack Obama before a parliamentary dinner in Canberra, Australia yesterday. AFP photoU.S. President Barack Obama insisted yesterday that the United States does not fear China, even as he announced a new security agreement with Australia that is widely viewed as a response to China’s growing aggressiveness.
The agreement, announced during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, will expand the U.S. military presence in Australia, positioning more U.S. equipment there, and increasing American access to bases. About 250 U.S. Marines with begin a rotation in northern Australia starting next year, with a full force of 2,500 military personnel staffing up over the next several years.
While the president sidestepped questions about whether the security agreement was aimed at containing China, he said the U.S. would keep sending a clear message that China needs to accept the responsibilities that come with being a world power. “It’s important for them to play by the rules of the road,” he said. And he insisted that the U.S is not fearful of China’s rise. “I think the notion that we fear China is mistaken. The notion that we’re looking to exclude China is mistaken,” he said.
China in response says a move by the U.S. to expand its military presence in Australia deserves greater scrutiny and might not be appropriate. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters at a regular press briefing yesterday that global financial difficulties have driven home the need for greater international cooperation. In light of those difficulties, Liu said it was worth discussing whether the U.S. plan to deploy Marines in northern Australia is in line with the common interests of the international community.