The United States “should appreciate the constructive role it is expected to play in the area,” the editorial stated.
Obama had already drawn rebukes from Chinese news media after criticizing Beijing’s economic policies at a summit in Hawaii over the weekend. There, the president called on China to make its currency policy more flexible, to help balance trade and to respect intellectual property rights.
The United States also has voiced alarm about China’s increasingly confrontational stance in the South China Sea, a critical commercial shipping channel that is thought to contain valuable oil and minerals.
The repositioning of the troops comes as a bipartisan congressional committee is examining ways to slash at least $1.2 trillion from the nation’s budget deficit. If that “supercommittee,” whose deliberations have so far been fruitless, fails to find a solution, defense spending would automatically be cut by a significant amount.
Obama pledged that he would not support cutting the defense budget in the Asia-Pacific region.
“I’ve made very clear . . . that even as we make a host of important fiscal decisions back home, this is right up there at the top of my priority list,” he said. “We will make sure we are able to fulfill our leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We are here to stay,” Obama added. “This is a region of huge strategic importance to us.”
Without dwelling on China, Obama and Gillard described the expanding alliance as a way to help provide military training to forces from Australia and Southeast Asian countries. U.S. troops also would be able to help in the event of natural disasters or humanitarian crises in the region.
Both Gillard and Tony Abbott, Australia’s opposition leader, thanked the United States for its willingness to be a partner.
“American world leadership may only be truly appreciated when it’s gone,” Abbott said. “None of us want to find out the hard way what a shrunken America looks like. A strong America means a safer world.”
Correspondent Keith B. Richburg in Beijing and staff writer William Wan in Washington contributed to this report.