Clinton in Australia for Defense Summit

Posted November 13th, 2012 at 1:50 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Perth Australia for defense talks aimed at expanding military and political cooperation between the United States and Australia.

Clinton will meet with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday ahead of the annual summit. She will be joined by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for the formal talks that begin Wednesday.

The summit is the first since last year's announcement of the U.S. military re-balancing toward Asia. As part of the plan, 2,500 U.S. Marines will be deployed to a base in northern Australia.

Officials say this week's talks are expected to focus on greater U.S. use of Australian military facilities, as well as other regional security issues.

The two countries will also discuss plans to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Australia, which has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, is the biggest military contributor to the campaign outside NATO.

It could be the last time that Panetta visits Australia as defense secretary. Panetta refused to speculate on whether he intends to step down as some expect or remain in the position during President Obama's second term, telling reporters: “Who the hell knows?”

It is also expected to be Clinton's last official trip to Australia as America's top diplomat, as she has stated that she wishes to step down at the end of Mr. Obama's first four-year term. Following the Australia trip, Clinton heads to Singapore on Friday, before accompanying President Obama on a tour of Southeast Asia.