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Picture, from HERE

The first deployment of around 250 US Marines will be sent to the city of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory in mid-2012, kicking off a rotating six-month presence of as many as 2,500 US troops Down Under.

“We have agreed joint initiatives to enhance our alliance, 60-years-old and being kept robust for tomorrow,” Gillard told a joint news conference in Canberra.

“It is a new agreement to expand the existing collaboration between the Australian Defence Force and the US Marine Corps and the US Air Force.

“Over a number of years we intend to build on this in a staged way,” she said of the deployment.

Beijing reacted angrily, saying the US military deployment to Australia “may not be quite appropriate”.

“It may not be quite appropriate to intensify and expand military alliances and may not be in the interest of countries within this region,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters in response to a question on the deployment.

The troops, whose nations are also allied in Afghanistan, will conduct exercises and training on a rotational basis on Australian bases with the Australian Defence Force.

The leaders also agreed to enhance cooperation between their air forces that will result in increased rotations of US aircraft through northern Australia, which is closer to Asia than it is to Sydney and Melbourne.

Obama said the announcement of the joint task force and his trip to the booming Asia-Pacific, which began Wednesday with his arrival in Canberra, sent a clear signal to America’s allies in the region.

Read the full story HERE

• Watch Barack Obama’s speech to the Australian Parliament live today at 10.10am AEDT on SBS One and online:  HERE

• China People’s Daily Online: Australia could be caught in Sino-US crossfire

On Tasmanian Times:
Scott MacInnes: Lest We Forget: The need to morally justify Afghanistan

• The Way We Were ...

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Open letter for President Obama:
Download:
Open_letter_to_Obama.pdf

• Bob Brown:

Gillard, Abbott should heed Australia’s right to an independent foreign policy in its own region

Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown said the Gillard government should ensure the Parliament debates the US military build-up planned for the NT and the alternative of Australia charting an independent course in the Asia Pacific this century.

“President Obama, who was very warmly welcomed to our nation’s capital, today delivered an important speech about America’s increased involvement in the Pacific and the economic and military imperatives that lie behind the US plans for Australia,” Senator Brown said in Canberra.

“In their acquiescence to these plans, the Australian government and opposition are giving up an historic opportunity to take an independent profile in international affairs. This should not be done lightly. Australia has its own peaceful economic, environmental and cultural interests across the region to pursue, from India to Indonesia to Japan and China.”

“The Greens want the Government to put the details of the US military build-up before the public and parliament. The presence of nuclear-armed and powered warships in Darwin harbour, increased use of bombing ranges by the US Air Force and a future presence that extends beyond 2500 US Marines are matters warranting full and mature consideration by Australia’s parliament.”

“The expansion of military ties with the US, supported by the Gillard government and the opposition, even though details are not available, is not the only or best way to a safer future.  Taking sides between the military might of the US and the growing power, including a nuclear arsenal, of China is not the only option.”

“President Obama has described nuclear proliferation as a regional challenge, which further underscores the hazard of Australia selling uranium to India, China, Russia and, potentially, Indonesia,” Senator Brown said.

After the speech, Senator Brown asked President Obama to support a future nomination of Antarctica for World Heritage status. The President said he “would look at it”.