WASHINGTON, D.C.: US President Barack Obama said on Thursday (Friday in Manila) that he envisioned greater defense cooperation with Australia in a tension-filled Asia, welcoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott despite differences on climate change.
In the conservative leader’s first White House summit since his election in September, Abbott said that Australia “will be an utterly indispensable ally” of the United States and welcomed Obama’s efforts to shift more US attention on Asia.
Obama praised Abbott for increasing Australia’s defense budget in tough economic times, calling the move a recognition that “we all have to make sure that we’re doing our fair share to help maintain global order and security.”
“We don’t have a better friend in the world, as well as the Asia-Pacific region, than Australia,” Obama told reporters after the Oval Office meeting.
Obama agreed with Australia’s previous government to send some 2,500 US Marines by 2016-2017 to the northern city of Darwin, which lies strategically close to hotspots in Southeast Asia.
Obama said that the United States and Australia have since then worked out force postures “that will enhance the bilateral cooperation between our militaries and give us additional reach throughout this very important part of the world.”
A White House statement said that the United States and Australia were looking to expand cooperation in “maritime capacity building” and humanitarian relief in Asia.