Obama Says U.S. Will Maintain Pacific Presence

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2011 — Cost-cut­ting ini­tia­tives to impact the armed forces won’t come at the cost of the U.S. pres­ence in Asia and the Pacif­ic, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said today in Can­ber­ra dur­ing an address to the Aus­tralian Par­lia­ment.

“My guid­ance is clear,” the pres­i­dent told the assem­bly dur­ing his two-day vis­it to Aus­tralia. “As we plan and bud­get for the future, we will allo­cate the resources nec­es­sary to main­tain our strong mil­i­tary pres­ence in this region. We will pre­serve our unique abil­i­ty to project pow­er and deter threats to peace. We will keep our com­mit­ments, includ­ing our treaty oblig­a­tions to allies like Aus­tralia.

“And we will con­stant­ly strength­en our capa­bil­i­ties to meet the needs of the 21st cen­tu­ry,” he con­tin­ued. “Our endur­ing inter­ests in the region demand our endur­ing pres­ence in the region. The Unit­ed States is a Pacif­ic pow­er, and we are here to stay.”

Oba­ma praised plans to expand the U.S.-Australian alliance, cit­ing new ini­tia­tives he said will bring their two mil­i­taries clos­er togeth­er.

“We’ll have new oppor­tu­ni­ties to train with oth­er allies and part­ners, from the Pacif­ic to the Indi­an Ocean,” he said. “And it will allow us to respond faster to the full range of chal­lenges, includ­ing human­i­tar­i­an crises and dis­as­ter relief.”

Oba­ma said the expand­ed U.S. pres­ence will have impact through­out the region: in Japan, Thai­land, the Philip­pines, South Korea and Indone­sia, and against threats such as North Korea.

The pres­i­dent said the Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue efforts to build a coop­er­a­tive rela­tion­ship with Chi­na.

The Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia have main­tained a decades-long secu­ri­ty alliance evi­dent today in Afghanistan and else­where around the world.

“From the trench­es of the First World War to the moun­tains of Afghanistan, Aussies and Amer­i­cans have stood togeth­er, we have fought togeth­er, we have giv­en lives togeth­er in every sin­gle major con­flict of the past hun­dred years,” Oba­ma told the assem­bly. “Every sin­gle one.”

This sol­i­dar­i­ty, he said, has sus­tained the two coun­tries through a dif­fi­cult decade since the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks on the Unit­ed States.

“In the Unit­ed States, we will nev­er for­get how Aus­tralia invoked the [Aus­tralia-New Zealand-U.S.] Treaty for the first time ever, show­ing that our two nations stood as one,” the pres­i­dent said. “And none of us will ever for­get those we’ve lost to al-Qaida’s ter­ror in the years since, includ­ing inno­cent Aus­tralians.”

Oba­ma not­ed that Aus­tralia is the largest troop con­trib­u­tor out­side of NATO to the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force in Afghanistan. Australia’s com­mit­ment in Afghanistan, he added, is a key com­po­nent in achiev­ing suc­cess there.

A tran­si­tion is tak­ing place in Afghanistan, Oba­ma said, with Afghans assum­ing increas­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for their secu­ri­ty so coali­tion forces can return home.

“With part­ners like Aus­tralia, we’ve struck major blows against al-Qai­da and put that ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion on the path to defeat, includ­ing deliv­er­ing jus­tice to Osama bin Laden,” the pres­i­dent said.

Oba­ma also empha­sized the two coun­tries’ com­mit­ment to peace and pros­per­i­ty in the Asia-Pacif­ic region.

“As two glob­al part­ners, we stand up for the secu­ri­ty and the dig­ni­ty of peo­ple around the world,” he said. “This is the alliance we reaf­firm today, root­ed in our val­ues, [and] renewed by every gen­er­a­tion.”

Oba­ma said the U.S.-Australia alliance has nev­er been stronger.

The pres­i­dent vis­it­ed the Roy­al Army Air Force Base in Dar­win lat­er in the day to thank Aus­tralian mil­i­tary mem­bers and a con­tin­gent of U.S. Marines who he called the back­bone of their two coun­tries’ 60-year alliance.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)