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US to bolster air, navy activity in northern Australia: Source

Published on Aug 12, 2014 9:45 AM
US Secretary of State John Kerry (second from right) and Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel (right) take part in talks at Admiralty House in Sydney on August 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - The United States will bolster its air and navy presence in northern Australia, a source said on Tuesday, under a plan to strengthen defence ties with its regional ally and project more power into the Asia-Pacific, where China's influence is growing.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry are in Sydney to finalise an agreement reached between US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the deployment of US marines to Australia for joint exercises and training.

Some 1,150 Marines are stationed in Darwin in Australia's tropical north under a 2011 agreement that launched Obama's "pivot" to Asia. The contingent, primed to respond to regional conflicts and humanitarian crises, will swell to 2,500 by 2017.

Officials were also finalising an agreement to boost US air and naval activity in sparsely populated and resource-rich northern Australia with an increased tempo of visits by US fighter jets and bombers, said a source with direct knowledge of the discussions.

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