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April 30, 2017

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Obama reaffirms US-Australia alliance

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia, with economic summits in Hawaii and Indonesia, has provided an opportunity to showcase foreign policy, an area where the White House has much greater freedom of maneuver than domestic affairs. With understandable fanfare, agreements were announced to export Boeing aircraft and GE engines to the region, which may add up to US$39 billion to the value of United States exports.

China's enormous expansion as a global as well as Pacific power is of primary concern. Obama talked tough in face-to-face meetings with Beijing officials, which may not be wise diplomacy but surely plays well in the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, already underway.

While attention tends to focus on the economic dimensions of China's influence, that great power's military expansion is also of concern, which in turn introduces the generally under-reported role of Australia. President Obama addressed a session of the Australia parliament, and with Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced an agreement to station U.S. Marines in that country.

Australia continues to be a vital, valuable ally of the United States. ANZUS, the Australia-New Zealand-U.S. security alliance, atrophied in the wake of the Cold War, but was dramatically re-energized by the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Australians were targets in the 2002 terrorist bombings in Bali. In 2004, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was attacked.

The Aussie-American special relationship dates from the crucible of World War II, and military security is the most crucial dimension. In that war, the enormous Japanese military drive south was finally blunted just short of Australia. Knowledgeable jungle-savvy Australian troops provided vital support to generally inexperienced Americans.

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