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US reassures China as 2,500 Marines head to Oz

SYDNEY -- The United States stressed Tuesday it welcomes the rise of China and wants to work constructively with Beijing as it signed a deal to deploy 2,500 Marines to Australia as part of its “rebalance” to Asia.

China bristled when the agreement to deploy Marines to the northern city of Darwin was first announced by President Barack Obama in 2011.

But after signing the deal at the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Sydney, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was not interested in conflict with the Asian powerhouse.

“We welcome the rise of China as a global partner, hopefully as a powerful economy, as a full participating constructive member of the international community,” he said.

“We are not seeking conflict and confrontation. And our hope is that China will likewise take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of it and be that cooperative partner.”

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier defended the deal to bring U.S. Marines and Air Force personnel to the Northern Territory, denying it was aimed at China, which is embroiled in maritime disputes with neighbors.

“That's not what it is directed to do at all. It's about working closely with the United States to ensure that we can work on regional peace and security,” she told a radio program.

“The United States is rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific so it's ways we can work together to support economic development as well as security and peace.”

After the talks Bishop, who also hosted U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, said the discussions were broad — ranging from tensions on the Korean peninsula to the crisis in Ukraine and to conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan.

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