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US, Australia coy about Asia-Pacific strategy

There was plenty of praise and backslapping going on in San Francisco as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met up with Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

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Ms Clinton began a press conference offering a warm greeting to Mr Rudd, who underwent heart surgery last month.

“On a personal note it is a special pleasure to see my friend Kevin Rudd back overseas serving his country and making this important journey to be with us here today,” Ms Clinton said with a smile.

The four continued with plaudits for the strong bond the US and Australia shares and talked about their negotiations to beef up the US military presence in Australia.

Ms Clinton jokingly admitted Americans have had to put up with Australia’s recent domination of sporting events – Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and US Tennis Open champ Samantha Stosur – and this year’s Oscars where Australians claimed a record five statuettes.

“The ties between our nations are as close as any in the world,” Ms Clinton said.

“Our peoples and our governments overwhelmingly support our partnership and although Australians have taken over the Oscars, the Tour de France and now the US Open, our affection for your country remains undiminished.”

The meetings were part of the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) and marked the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty.

US, AUSTRALIA COY ABOUT ASIAPAC STRATEGY

The US and Australia have confirmed their intention to flex their military muscle in the Asia-Pacific, but are yet to conclude how America’s increased military presence in Australia will look.

The two nations are negotiating how they will share military facilities and ports and increase joint activities, including training, exercises and the “prepositioning of US equipment in Australia”.

“We have more work to do,” Mr Smith added at a joint press conference.

Mr Smith reaffirmed the US will not have its own military bases in Australia and new bases will not be built for the US.

“We are not looking at additional or new facilities,” Mr Smith said.

“We are looking at the sharing of our current facilities.”

The meetings were part of the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) and marked the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty.

Mr Panetta, the former director of the CIA, said the US has no greater ally and the relationship the US and Australia shares will bolster security in the Asia-Pacific.

“This work to strengthen our alliance’s presence and posture in the Pacific reflects the reality we all recognise,” Mr Panetta said.

“The security and prosperity of our two great nations depends on the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.”

According to the joint US-Australia communique released at the end of AUSMIN, Australia will also continue to consult with the US as it develops the “phased adaptive approach to Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) outlined in the US BMD Review, which will allow missile defence to be adapted to the threats unique to the Asia-Pacific”.

“We are continuing to build a more detailed understanding of regional ballistic missile threats; cooperative research on systems to counter such threats; and options for practical cooperation in this area,” the communique states.

Australia and the US have also agreed to work together to bolster their defences against cyber attacks, one of the great security threats of the 21st century.

“Our governments share the view that, in the event of a cyber attack that threatens the territorial integrity, political independence or security of either of our nations, Australia and the US would consult together and determine appropriate options to address the threat,” the US and Australia said in a separate joint statement.

The meetings are being held at San Francisco’s historic Presidio, the site of the signing of the ANZUS treaty 60 years ago.