by Tom Freeman and Marie Montodo
Australian peace activists have criticised a new agreement between Australia and the US
which will lead to an increased American military presence in the area.
President Barack Obama assured the Asia-Pacific region that the U.S. was “here to stay,” after announcing 2,500 U.S. troops and aircraft will operate out of the city of Darwin, close to the Indonesian border.
Missile guidance base Pine Gap is an example of how the US and Australian militaries have worked together since the 1970s .
Cameron Hall, 35, from Tasmania, said “A lot of Australians will be upset about this. In the cold war many people were worried because Pine Gap made us a target for Russia and China. This announcement is bad timing because China is our main trade partner, and there is also a growing feeling of dissent about what is seen as a cavalier attitude by our government to giving away Australian territory.”
Pine Gap, near Alice Springs employs over 800 staff and is a Joint Defence Facility, like Menwith Hill in the UK.
“I have directed my national security team to make our presence and missions in the Asia Pacific a top priority,” Obama told an audience of American and Australian troops at the Royal Australian Air Force base in Darwin yesterday.
China has already expressed concerns about the move. Xinhua, China’s state news agency, said “it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the United States is trying to seek hegemony in the region, which would be in line with its aspirations as a global superpower.”
Obama responded to these objections by saying the U.S. wants to work with China: “We’ll seek more opportunities for cooperation with Beijing.” He also added, however, that the U.S. would not ignore issues such as human rights in the region.
“Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict, or cooperation; needless suffering or human progress,” he said.
SOUND FILE: obama addresses troops.