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Australia defends security deal with US as annual talks open

Published on Aug 12, 2014 11:18 AM
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (second right) speaks with US Secretary of State John Kerry alongside US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (left) and Australian Defence Minister David Johnston (right) during a signing ceremony for a joint force posture agreement at the AUSMIN meeting at Admiralty House in Sydney, Aug 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday defended a deal to deploy 2,500 US Marines in the country, denying it was aimed at curbing a rising China with tensions growing in the region.

Beijing bristled when the deal, to be signed off at annual security talks, was announced as part of the US "pivot" to Asia in 2011. But Bishop, who is hosting US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel in Sydney, said the rotation of Marines into the northern city of Darwin was the "natural evolution" of their alliance.

"It's aimed at supporting the long-term peace, stability and prosperity of our region, the Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific," she said ahead of the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).

The foreign minister denied the agreement was aimed at hindering China, with Beijing embroiled in maritime disputes with several of its neighbours. "That's not what it is directed to do at all. It's about working closely with the United States to ensure that we can work on regional peace and security," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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