Obama heads to Australia, focuses on military presence

President Barack Obama greets service members before boarding Air Force One at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, as he travels to Canberra, Australia. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama greets service members before boarding Air Force One at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, as he travels to Canberra, Australia.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Off on the second leg of his Asia-Pacific trip, President Obama lands late tonight in Australia where he is expected to announce an expanded American military presence. The arrangement is expected to allow U.S. Marines increased access to Australian bases for training and military exercises.

The White House has declined to provide further details on the plan, but in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "Lateline," Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith called it "the most important practical, co-operative development in our alliance arrangements with the United States since the joint facilities were agreed upon in the 1980s."

This announcement will likely come on Thursday at a military base in Darwin, Australia.

While in Darwin, Mr. Obama is also scheduled to visit a memorial to the USS Peary, a U.S. Clemson class destroyer sunk in Japanese air raids during World War II.

This will be the first time any sitting president has traveled to Australia's Northern Territory.

But before moving to the Northern Territory, the president will spend Wednesday (Eastern Time) in Australia's capital city of Canberra (the local time for the president's stop will be Wednesday evening and Thursday morning). There, he will meet with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and address Parliament.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes in a briefing last week called this the major "anchor speech" of Mr. Obama's first term on "how the U.S. sees the Asia Pacific." The president is expected to focus on the "potential of deepening economic ties" with the region as the U.S. makes "a larger pivot in our foreign policy" toward Asia Pacific.

The two-day stop in Australia will be Mr. Obama's first visit to Australia as president. An Australia visit has been scheduled twice before, but was cancelled both times, once for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and once during debate over the Affordable Care Act.

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