Military cuts 'not on agenda' of US talks: Australia
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia on Sunday sought to play down comments by a senior US official who said Washington planned to raise concerns about Canberra's falling military spending at talks this week between the allies.
Australia slashed A$5.5 billion (S$7 billion) from its defence budget in May in a bid to return the economy to surplus, despite a beefed-up US alliance that has seen hundreds of Marines deployed to northern Australia.
The expansion in ties, announced by US President Barack Obama on a visit to Australia 12 months ago, is part of Washington's pivot to Asia to counter China's growing military might. Australia is a long-standing US ally.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith is due to meet US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Perth this week for annual security talks, and one of Mrs Clinton's top advisors in the region, Mr Kurt Campbell, earlier said the "important" spending issue would be raised.