President Obama announced plans Wednesday to use Darwin, Australia, as a new center of military operations in Asia.
“With my visit to the region, I am making it clear that the United States is stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia-Pacific region,” Obama said during a press conference in Australia's capital, Canberra, Wednesday.
Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that the United States would send 2,500 marines to Australia.
The move is being seen as an effort to counter China's growing might and reflects Obama's eagerness to reassert the United States' influence and power in the region, The New York Times reported. The base is intended to show Asians that the United States wants to remain relevant in the region.
“The US needs to show the Chinese that they still have the power to overwhelm them, that they still can prevail if something really wrong happens,” Huang Jing, a foreign affairs analyst and visiting professor at the National University of Singapore, told the Times. “It’s a hedging policy.”
The location of the base in Darwin, Australia, also carries symbolic weight. The US military last used Darwin during World War II as a base to win back the Pacific from the Japanese.
The marines will also be available for humanitarian and disaster relief, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Obama will go to Darwin for two hours Thursday, and the area's police have launched their largest ever security operation, ABC News reported.
GlobalPost's Australia correspondent Freya Petersen reported that Australians expressed excitement at the president's visit.
A home page photo of Obama hugging a schoolgirl in the Sydney Morning Herald ran with the headline, "POTUS gets the love."