[LINK] o/t: America and China
stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Thu Nov 17 21:27:10 AEDT 2011
The main headline-story in the NYTimes today ..
A U.S. Marine Base for Australia Irritates China
By JACKIE CALMES Published: November 16, 2011
CANBERRA, Australia President Obama announced Wednesday that the United
States planned to deploy 2,500 Marines in Australia to shore up alliances
in Asia, but the move prompted a sharp response from Beijing, which
accused Mr. Obama of escalating military tensions in the region.
The agreement with Australia amounts to the first long-term expansion of
the American militarys presence in the Pacific since the end of the
It comes despite budget cuts facing the Pentagon and an increasingly
worried reaction from Chinese leaders, who have argued that the United
States is seeking to encircle China militarily and economically.
It may not be quite appropriate to intensify and expand military
alliances and may not be in the interest of countries within this
region, Liu Weimin, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in response to
the announcement by Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Julia Gillard of
In an address to the Australian Parliament on Thursday morning, Mr. Obama
said he had made a deliberate and strategic decision as a Pacific
nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in
shaping this region and its future.
The president said the moves were not intended to isolate China, but they
were an unmistakable sign that the United States had grown warier of its
China has invested heavily in military modernization and has begun to
deploy long-range aircraft and a more able deep-sea naval force, and it
has asserted territorial claims to disputed islands that would give it
broad sway over oil and gas rights in the East and South China Seas.
(The main problem here being the Sprately Islands, basically a collection
of sandbars that eight or so countries sort of claim, but the Philippines
have had fishermen living there semi-permanently for centuries. No country
cared about them much, but, just recently, oil was discovered. Now, China
is sending warships & getting very serious with the traditional fishermen.
It's seen as very possibly a *major* problem here in this region. At this
same time, America has recently started to show a *lot* of interest doing
business here in the Philippines, especially food, cars and call centres.
While the new military commitment is relatively modest, Mr. Obama has
promoted it as the cornerstone of a strategy to confront more directly
the challenge posed by Chinas rapid advance as an economic and military
He has also made some progress in creating a new Pacific free-trade zone
that would give Americas free-market allies in the region some trading
privileges that do not immediately extend to China.
Mr. Obama described the deployment as responding to the wishes of
democratic allies in the region, from Japan to India. Some allies have
expressed concerns that the United States, facing war fatigue and a
slackened economy, will cede its leadership role to China.
The president said budget-cutting in Washington and the inevitable
squeeze on military spending would not inhibit his ability to follow
through. Defense cuts will not I repeat, will not come at the
expense of the Asia-Pacific, he said.
Some analysts in China and elsewhere say they fear that the moves could
backfire, risking a cold war-style standoff with China.
I dont think theyre going to be very happy, said Mark Valencia, a
Hawaii-based senior researcher at the National Bureau of Asian Research,
who said the new policy was months in the making. Im not optimistic in
the long run as to how this is going to wind up.
The president is to fly north across the continent to Darwin, a frontier
port and military outpost across the Timor Sea from Indonesia, which will
be the center of operations for the coming deployment. The first 200 to
250 Marines will arrive next year, with forces rotating in and out and
eventually building up to 2,500, the two leaders said.
The United States will not build new bases on the continent, but will use
Australian facilities instead.
Mr. Obama said that Marines would rotate through for joint training and
exercises with Australians, and the American Air Force would have
increased access to airfields in the nations Northern Territory.
Were going to be in a position to more effectively strengthen the
security of both of our nations and this region, he said.
The United States has had military bases and large forces in Japan and
South Korea, in the north Pacific, since the end of World War II, but its
presence in Southeast Asia was greatly diminished in the early 1990s with
the closing of major bases in the Philippines, at Clark Field and Subic
The new arrangement with Australia will restore a substantial American
footprint near the South China Sea, a major commercial route including
for American exports that has been roiled by Chinas disputed claims of
The United States and other Pacific Rim nations are also negotiating to
create a free-trade bloc, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that would not
initially include China, the worlds largest exporter and producer of
The tentative trade agreement was a topic over the weekend in Honolulu,
where Mr. Obama hosted the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
forum, and it will be discussed again later this week when he becomes the
first American president to participate in the East Asia Summit meeting,
on the Indonesian island of Bali.
For China, the weeks developments could suggest both an economic and a
Top leaders did not immediately comment on Mr. Obamas speech, but Mr.
Liu, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, emphasized that it was the United
States, not China, seeking to use military power to influence events in
The Global Times, a state-run news organization known for its nationalist
and bellicose commentaries, issued a stronger reaction in an editorial,
saying that Australia should be cautious about allowing the United States
to use bases there to harm China and that it risked getting caught in
Analysts say that Chinese leaders have been caught off guard by what they
view as an American campaign to stir up discontent in the region.
China may have miscalculated in recent years by restating longstanding
territorial claims that would give it broad sway over development rights
in the South China Sea, they say. But they argue that Beijing has not
sought to project military power far beyond its shores, and has
repeatedly proposed to resolve territorial disputes through negotiations.
The United States portrays itself as responding to a new Chinese
assertiveness in the region that has alarmed core American allies.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a recent article in
Foreign Policy laying out an expansive case for American involvement in
Asia, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta characterized Chinas
military development as lacking transparency and criticized its
assertiveness in the regional waters.
Mr. Obama reached out to China even as he announced the new troop
deployment. The notion that we fear China is mistaken; the notion that
we are looking to exclude China is mistaken, he said.
The president said that China would be welcomed into the new trade pact
if Beijing was willing to meet the free-trade standards for membership.
But such standards would require China to let its currency rise in value,
to better protect foreign producers intellectual property rights and to
limit or end subsidies to state-owned companies, all of which would
require a major overhaul of Chinas economic development strategy.
Mr. Obama canceled two previous planned trips to Australia because of
domestic demands; he recalled Wednesday at a state dinner that he had
visited the country twice as a boy, when his mother was working in
Indonesia on development programs.
This time, as president, Mr. Obama arrived at Parliament House to a 21-
gun salute and, once inside, to the enthusiastic greeting of Australians
crowding the galleries of the vast marble entrance hall.
The two countries have been allies for decades, and cooperated closely in
World War II, when there were several dozen American air and naval bases
and army camps in the country and Australian combat troops served under
Another purpose of Mr. Obamas visit is to celebrate those ties. The
United States has no stronger ally, Mr. Obama said.
Australians fought alongside Americans in every war of the 20th century,
and more recently have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The war in Afghanistan has become increasingly unpopular here, though,
and most Australians want their troops to come home immediately.
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