Yet the agreement has alarmed Chinese officials. Although the number of troops who will be stationed here is small, the move has been accompanied by tough rhetoric.
In his parliamentary address, Obama said he made a deliberate decision for the United States to play a “larger and long-term” role in shaping the future of the region. All nations, he said, have an interest in the rise of a “peaceful and prosperous China. That’s why the United States welcomes it. . . . We will seek more cooperation with Beijing.”
But Obama added that the United States will “speak candidly to Beijing about the importance of upholding international norms and the respect for the basic universal human rights of the Chinese people.”
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott praised Obama and the United States, saying they welcomed the expanded military alliance even though China is Australia’s largest trading 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.”
In the end, Obama made the case that the United States’ presence as a strong “Pacific nation” will help ensure that certain rights that he said “stir in every human heart” — the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and religion, as well as the freedom of citizens to choose their own leaders — will be maintained.
“This is the future we seek in the Asia Pacific — security, prosperity and dignity for all,” Obama said. “That’s what we stand for. That’s who we are. That’s the future we will pursue, in partnership with allies and friends, and with every element of American power. So let there be no doubt: In the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in.”
In his brief remarks to the soldiers at the Royal Australian Air Force Base in Darwin, Obama paid tribute to the two countries’ 60-year alliance, which began during World War II.
He noted that it was in Darwin, which he called “Australia’s Pearl Harbor,” that U.S. and Australian troops suffered heavy losses after being bombed by Japanese aircraft. The destroyer USS Peary was sunk in the harbor of this base in Australia’s remote Northern Territory.
Citing collaboration by the two nations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama added: “Now, here in Darwin and Northern Australia, we’ll write the next proud chapter in our alliance.”