In a clear message to China, President Barack Obama today said that U.S. will maintain its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region despite budget cuts, declaring that America was “here to stay” as a Pacific power.
“The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” Mr. Obama said in a speech to the Australian parliament, a day after announcing that the U.S. would base its military aircraft and up to 2,500 Marines in northern Australia.
China immediately questioned the U.S. move and said it deserved further scrutiny.
Addressing the special joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, Mr. Obama told MPs and senators he had directed his national security team to make “our presence and mission in the Asia-Pacific a top priority”.
“As a result, reductions in United States defence spending will not, I repeat, will not come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific,” he said.
While he stressed that the U.S. was “here to stay” as a Pacific power, he said the US is focused on the region as the one that will define the future of the world.
“The United States has and always will be a Pacific nation,” he said.
“Let there be no doubt, in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in,” he added.
Mr. Obama said that given its size, resources and the economic growth that the region had witnessed in recent years, Asia-Pacific countries were playing an increasingly important role globally.