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United States

US strengthens military presence in Australia

US and Australian officials have announced details of a strengthening of their military partnership. The US plans to send powerful radar and telescope equipment to Australia as security priorities shift towards Asia.

Top defense officials unveiled a new plan on Wednesday to strengthen bilateral military cooperation between the US and Australia.

They told reporters after the meeting in the western Australian city of Perth that the decision to relocate the surveillance equipment would benefit both nations.

"Here you see the world moving to the Asia-Pacific, the world moving to the Indo-Pacific, not just with security implications but with enormous economic investment and prosperity," Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith told reporters.

The C-band radar "will add considerably to surveillance of space debris in our part of the world," Smith added.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praised the new plan, calling it "major leap forward in bilateral space cooperation and an important new frontier in the United States' rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region."

Australia's defense minister re-emphasized his country's commitment to a deal reached last year with the US to increase the number of US Marines at Australia's northern military bases. By 2014, the US has said it plans to sent 1,100 troops and then increase that number to 2,500 by 2016.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton also attended the annual strategic talks.

While Wednesday's announcement provided further evidence that the US government is shifting its armed forces to the Pacific out of fear of China's growing military power, Clinton has insisted that the Washington supports peaceful relations with the Asian superpower.

A joint statement issued by the US and Australian officials on Wednesday reiterated that the bilateral cooperation continued to evolve and was not finalized, saying that further US military presence in Australia "would require substantial further study and additional decisions by both capitals."

kms/rc (AFP, AP, dpa)