Obama Announces Military Expansion in Australia in Support of Asia-Pacific Trade

By MarEx 2011-11-17 08:08:18

The President of the United States is set to unveil plans of an increased American military presence in Australia, aimed to support maritime trade of the Asia-Pacific region and to strenghten ties with the Aussies as tensions in the South China Sea continue to rise. 

Fresh from hosting an Asia-Pacific trade summit in Hawaii, Obama is slated to outline the military expansion in Australia in an address to parliament on Thursday.  Obama’s speech will cover an array of U.S. strategic interests, some of the topics on the agenda include human and drug trafficking, piracy, violent extremism, and the future of the feuding Korean states.  Following his address to the Australian parliament, Obama will travel to the northern coastal city of Darwin, where U.S. maritime forces will train and conduct exercises with the Australian military. 

PHOTO: United States President, Barack Obama (left) and Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard (right).

Another main intent of the visit, though, is to secure ties and support trading in the region through the South China Sea.  The South China Sea has been an area of heated debate amongst countries in the area who continue to dispute certain maritime borders that threaten their claim to the natural resources that lie among them.  The shipping lane connecting Asian and Pacific countries in the South China Sea is worth more than $5 trillion in annual trade, and an American presence is incredibly vital to its survival.  Obama stresses that supporting trade of this nature is imperative to the turnaround of the faltering global economy.

Aside from supporting the Asia-Pacific trade region, it is also believed that it is in America's interests to establish a military presence in Australia as a counterbalance to the growing Chinese military presence.  The northern coast of Australia provides closer access to the South China Sea than other American bases located in Japan and Korea.

Assumptions that the actions are meant to send a symbolic message to the growing Chinese military have been debunked by the President.  Obama told the New York Times, “The notion that we fear China is mistaken.  The notion that we are looking to exclude China is mistaken.” 

Obama backed up these statements by saying that China will be welcomed into the tentative plans for a Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is set to include nine nations thus far, if they are willing to meet the free-trade standards of the partnership.  The free trade bloc agreement with other Pacific Rim countries would contend that China has to allow its currency to rise in value, better protect foreign intellectual property, and limit/end subsidies to Chinese state-owned companies. 

The President’s visit to Australia is part of a long lived alliance celebrating its 60th anniversary.