China has reacted angrily to remarks by Barack Obama signalling a significant shift in US policy vis-a-vis Asia.
The US president has pledged not to let his country’s budget crisis compromise its strategic vision and military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
His commitment came a day after the US said it would deploy up to 2,500 troops to northern Australia and strengthen air force co-operation, causing a strong reaction from China, whose rapid rise is reorienting Asia’s strategic balance.
In a message aimed both at a region he sees as vital to the US economic future and politicians at home, Obama told the Australian parliament in Canberra on Thursday the Asia-Pacific was too vital to fall prey to US penny-pinching.
“As the United States puts our fiscal house in order, we are reducing our spending,” Obama said, cautioning that reductions in funding for the US military machine were inevitable after years of huge spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Here is what this region must know. As we end today’s wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and missions in the Asia-Pacific a top priority.
“As a result, reductions in US defence spending will not – I repeat, will not – come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific.”