The United States yesterday insisted that its much-hyped move to the Asia Pacific region is definitely for real as Australian and US officials met for their annual talks on strategy.
Reporters were told by US Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, prior to his flying into Perth, that America is ready to deliver on a plan to make a move to the Pacific despite the fiscal crisis at home and continuing crises in the Middle East. “The rebalance is real,” he says. “It’s going to be long-term.”
The US is expanding its military exercises with its allies and gradually beginning to move its most advanced aircraft, ships and weaponry to Asia. This includes the deployment of Marines in northern Australia as part of its long-term strategy, according to Panetta, who added that this does not mean that the US military presence in the still-volatile Middle East US will have to be scaled back.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at Perth’s University of Western Australia, said that America had an “expanding engagement” within the region. “It’s important that we make absolutely clear we are here to stay,” she noted, saying that the US wishes to see India become much more involved in the region and that, in the future, the US would welcome joint Australia-India naval exercises.
The talks come after the relocation of around 250 Marines to northern Australia in 2012 as part of the US ‘rebalance’ toward the Pacific, following ten years of ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.