Clinton arrives in Australia for defense meetings

  • Article by: ROD McGUIRK
  • Associated Press
  • November 12, 2012 - 10:53 PM

PERTH, Australia - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Australia on Tuesday before a summit about deepening defense links between Australia and the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is scheduled to arrive later. They'll meet with Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday and with Defense Minister Stephen Smith and Foreign Minister Bob Carr the next day.

Gillard said she was looking forward to talking with Clinton. "We've had the opportunity to meet on a number of occasions and spend some time together, just her and me, so that's been very valuable for me," she said.

Australia's first woman prime minister, Gillard declined to tell reporters whether she intended to discuss with Clinton her political future. Clinton has said she doesn't want to serve another four years as secretary of state, and she's ruled out another presidential campaign even though speculation of a candidacy continues.

The annual summit is the first since President Barack Obama visited Australia a year ago and riled China, Australia's biggest trade partner, by announcing that up to 2,500 U.S. Marines would rotate through a joint military training hub in the northern Australian city of Darwin.

The two countries also want to increase U.S. military access to the Australian navy base south of Perth and to bombing ranges in the northern Outback as part of the shift of U.S. might to the Asia-Pacific region.

Afghanistan will also feature in discussions. Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan and is the biggest military contributor to that campaign outside NATO.

At their last bilateral meeting a year ago, U.S. and Australian officials decided to include cooperation on cybersecurity as part of their defense treaty. It was the first time that the Obama administration has carved out such a partnership outside NATO.

The agreement is partly in response to the cyberthreat emanating from the Asia-Pacific region, especially China and North Korea.

Clinton was greeted by Carr and Smith at Perth airport, along with Australian Ambassador to the U.S. Kim Beazley and U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich.

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