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First batch of US Marines arrives in Australia


US Marine forces arrive at RAAF Base Darwin. An Australian MoD photo

MELBOURNE (PTI): The first contingent of 200 US Marines arrived in Australia on Wednesday as part of US's new military strategy for the Asia-Pacific region which has witnessed increasing assertiveness by China.

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith welcomed the US troops when they landed at Darwin Airport in Northern Australia, where a permanent joint training hub is being set up.

The Marines are the first contingent of 2,500 US troops to be deployed in Northern Australia by 2017 as part of a deal announced by US President Barack Obama during his trip to the country in 2011.

The decision, which had prompted Beijing to accuse Obama of escalating military tensions in the region, is part of his publicly stated strategy of shifting the American military's long-term focus towards the Pacific and an increasingly assertive China.

The unit has recently been involved in active service in Afghanistan.

Marines during their six-month rotation will engage in exercises with the Australian Defence Forces and also will travel to other nations throughout the region for training and exercises.

They will be based at Robertson Barracks on the outskirts of Darwin.

Smith said Darwin and the Northern Territory have welcomed the arrivals.

"The Northern Territory's got a longstanding history of working closely not just with the Australian Defence Force, but also with the United States," he said adding, "I think the mood here is one of very strong enthusiasm."

He further said that as the rotation is staged, the Government will be ensuring there are no problems for the people of Darwin.

In a bid to counter Indonesia's concern that basing US Marines in northern Australia could inflame tensions in the region, Smith said that it was not the view expressed by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"He saw the prospect of not just Australia, the United States and potentially Indonesia engaging in exercises, but also the wider region, including China," he said.

"When that suggestion was made, both the US ambassador and I publicly welcomed that suggestion and said in due course that could be something that we could work towards."

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US  Australia  Marines  China  

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