US secretary of state in Australia for wide-ranging talks

SYDNEY (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Sydney on Monday for annual talks with close ally Australia, which an official said will range from the crisis in Iraq to security issues in Asia.

The centrepiece of the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) on Tuesday is expected to be the signing of the framework for the rotational deployment of up to 2,500 US Marines through the northern city of Darwin.

A US State Department official said Kerry, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and their Australian counterparts Julie Bishop and David Johnston will also consult on regional issues in South-east Asia and the Pacific, including Myanmar.

"It is an opportunity for them to align their defence policies as allies to explore ways that they can extend and expand security cooperation as well as strategic planning," the official travelling with Kerry told AFP on his flight from Darwin to Sydney.

Kerry and Bishop, building on their talks at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) forum on the weekend in Mynamar, will also consult on regional architecture.

"They will discuss Northeast Asia and compare notes about respective relations with China, the challenges posed by North Korea," the official said. "And I am sure they will also discuss Japan," the official added, noting that the US, Australia and Japan have for some time held trilateral security meetings.

The ministers will also look at international hot spots and challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. "That will include issues related to Ukraine and Russia, the Middle East, Gaza, Iran, Iraq and Syria and importantly Afghanistan where there is an extraordinary record of Australia-US cooperation," the official said.

The high-level annual talks, last held in Washington, will also look at transnational threats; focusing on counterterrorism, the threat of returning foreign fighters and radicalised citizens and climate change.