WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday praised ally Australia as a trusted military partner whose cooperation is providing the U.S. with added reach in the Asia-Pacific, but questions lingered about their differences on climate change.
Obama spoke to reporters after a one-hour meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who thanked Obama for the deeper engagement by the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific region. He said Australia will be "an utterly dependable ally of the United States."
It was Abbott's first White House visit since he was elected in September. The two leaders also discussed world security hotspots, their two countries' involvement in a proposed trans-Pacific free trade pact and maritime disputes between China and Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea.
"Obviously, both the United States and Australia have enormous trade relationships with China, and we both agree that it's important to continue to see China prosper and rise, but what's also important is that as China emerges as this great world power, that it also is helping to reinforce and abide by basic international law and norms," Obama said.
Australia is hosting a new deployment of U.S. Marines — a concrete outcome of the Obama administration's so-called Asia pivot. The two sides announced Thursday further defense cooperation and the possibility of Australian contributions to missile defense in the region.
Obama said he and Abbott were improving the military relationship between the two countries that is giving the United States "additional reach throughout this very important part of the world," and he noted that under Abbott, the Australian government has increased its defense budget.
Obama described Australia as one of a handful of countries that the U.S. can always count on. "And Aussies know how to fight, and I like having them in a foxhole if we're in trouble. So I can't think of a better partner," he said.
The two leaders appear less in step, however, on the issue of climate change.
Neither leader mentioned it in their brief comments to reporters. But White House spokesman Jay Carney said they did discuss climate change in their private session and that Obama emphasized the need for countries to adopt "ambitious domestic climate policies as the basis of a strong international response." He said Obama believes climate change should be discussed in November's meeting of the Group of 20 industrialized and developing countries. Australia, which currently chairs the group, will host the meeting.
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