President Barack Obama traveled to Australia Wednesday to meet with the country’s prime minister, Julia Gillard. At a news conference, they announced an agreement to increase U.S. military presence in Australia. The island nation is a long-time ally, or friend, of the United States.
Under the agreement, about 250 U.S. Marines will be sent to northern Australia starting next year. That number is expected to climb to 2,500 over the next several years. The move shows the world that the U.S. and Australia will work together in the future to tackle threats. "These initiatives are the result of our countries working closely together as partners,” Obama said. “[That means] we are going to be in a position to more effectively strengthen the security of both of our nations and this region."
Watching over the Asia-Pacific
Obama and Gillard said that the agreement will allow them to provide greater humanitarian aid in the region during natural disasters. But the announcement is also a response to China’s growing presence in the Pacific region. The Asian country has claimed authority over areas of the Pacific that the U.S. considers international waters, or open sea areas outside the territory of any nation.
What’s more, China has been building up its military. It has also restarted old territorial disputes over the South China Sea and other areas. The U.S. and smaller Asian nations are concerned over China’s actions. Obama says 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.
Obama’s two-day visit to Australia is his first as president. He canceled two earlier visits, once in 2009 and again in 2010, after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The President was welcomed with an official arrival ceremony, in Canberra, Australia. He spoke with school kids and signed a guest book before meeting with Gillard.
The Australia visit comes after Obama hosted an Asia-Pacific economic summit in Hawaii, where the U.S. and eight other nations reached an agreement that set standard rules for commerce, or trade. Obama says the U.S. is "stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia-Pacific."