Canberra, Nov 17: President Barack Obama insisted on Wednesday that the United States does not fear China, even as he announced a new security agreement with Australia that is widely viewed as a response to Beijing's growing aggressiveness.
China responded swiftly with a warning that an expanded US military footprint in Australia may not be appropriate and deserved greater scrutiny.
The agreement, announced during a joint news conference with Australian PM Julia Gillard, will expand the US military presence in Australia, positioning more US personnel and equipment there, and increasing American access to bases.
About 250 US marines will begin a rotation in northern Australia starting next year, with a full force of 2,500 military personnel staffing up over the next several years.
During his news conference with Gillard, Obama sidestepped questions about whether the security pact was aimed at containing China .
But he said the US would keep sending a clear message that China needs to accept responsibilities that come with being a world power.
“It's important for them to play by the rules of the road,” he said. And he insisted that the US is not fearful of China's rise. “I think the notion that we fear China is mistaken .
The notion that we're looking to exclude China is mistaken,” he said.
China was immediately leery of the prospect of an expanded US military presence in Australia. Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said on Wednesday that it was worth discussing whether the plan was in line with the common interests of the international community.
Obama national security aide Ben Rhodes said the agreement was not only appropriate , but also a response to the demand from nations in the region that have signaled they want the US to be present.
The US and smaller Asian nations have grown increasingly concerned about China claiming dominion over vast areas of the Pacific that the US considers international waters, and reigniting old territorial disputes.
Defence secretary Leon Panetta has said that the goal of the new security pact is to signal that the US and Australia will stick together in face of any threats.
In addition to the expanded Marine presence in Australia , more US aircraft will rotate through Australia as part of an agreement between each nation's air force.
Obama and Gillard said the increased air presence would allow the US and Australia to more effectively respond to respond to natural disasters and humanitarian crises in the region. Rhodes said the US military boost would amount to a “sustained US presence”.