US not afraid of China's military power: Obama

Washington signs agreement with Canberra to keep Marines in Oz

Stressing the rising economic influence of the Asia-Pacific, Obama told reporters in Canberra he was stepping up Washington’s commitment to the region, undaunted by China, which he said America did not fear. “The notion that we fear China is a mistake. The notion that we are looking to exclude China is a mistake,” Obama said.

The self-declared “Pacific President” told reporters at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard that when it came to the fast-growing region: “We are here to stay.”

Beijing reacts

The deployment of US Marines to Australia’s tropical north came as the allies adapted their military posture to face a new security era marked by the rise of China, which sparked an immediate negative response from Beijing. “It may not be quite appropriate to intensify and expand military alliances and may not be in the interest of countries within this region,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.

The first deployment of around 250 US Marines will be sent to Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory in mid-2012. “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,” Gillard said. “Over a number of years we intend to build on this in a staged way.”

The leaders also agreed to enhance cooperation between their air forces.
“We are two Pacific nations and with my visit to the region I am making it clear that the United States is stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia-Pacific,” he said.

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