US message for China: We're the boss

US is 'here to stay' as Pacific power: Obama's message to China

Melbourne: In a clear message to China, President Barack Obama today said that US will maintain its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region despite budget cuts, saying that America was "here to stay" as a Pacific power.
President Barack Obama
"The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay," Obama said in a speech to the Australian parliament, a day after announcing that the US would send military aircraft and up to 2,500 Marines to northern Australia.
China immediately questioned the US move and said it deserved further scrutiny.
Addressing the special joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, Obama told MPs and senators he had directed his national security team to make "our presence and mission in the Asia-Pacific a top priority".
"As a result, reductions in United States defence spending will not, I repeat, will not come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific," he said.
While he stressed that the US was "here to stay" as a Pacific power, he said the US is focused on the region as the one that will define the future of the world.
"The United States has and always will be a Pacific nation," he said.
"Let there be no doubt, in the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in," he added.
Obama said that given its size, resources and the economic growth that the region had witnessed in recent years, Asia-Pacific countries were playing an increasingly important role globally.
"As the world's fastest-growing region - and home to more than half the global economy - Asia is critical to achieving my highest priority: creating jobs and opportunity for the American people," Obama said.
"With most of the world's nuclear powers and nearly half of humanity, this region will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or co-operation, needless suffering or human progress," he said.
He said that the US was keen to increase its presence in the region and play a bigger role in its development and progress.
"As president, I've therefore made a deliberate and strategic decision - as a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future, by upholding core principles and in close partnership with allies and friends."
Obama said US military, along with Australians, had fought and died in the region and its mission now was to promote security, prosperity and human dignity.
"Americans have bled with you for this progress and we will never allow it to be reversed," he said.
"That's what we stand for, that's who we are, that's the future we will pursue in league with our allies and friends with every element of American power."
Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday announced an expansion of US military activity in Australia, beginning with an increase in the presence of US Marines from mid-2012, a move that angered China.
Obama addressed the Chinese unease, pledging to seek greater cooperation with Beijing.
He welcomed the rise of China as a world economic and military power but said he wanted more engagement between US and Chinese armed forces "to avoid misunderstandings".
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Philippines rejects new Chinese territorial claim

China has claimed new territory less than 50 miles (80 kilometers) from a Philippine province after Manila invited foreign investors to explore for oil and gas in the area, but the Philippines has dismissed the claim, an official said Monday.
Philippines rejects new Chinese territorial claim
Philippine Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug Jr. told The Associated Press that China protested the exploration plan in July. It is the closest point in waters off the main Philippine islands that China has claimed in increasingly tense South China Sea territorial disputes.
Beijing's action will likely bolster Philippine resolve to seek a U.N. ruling on the long-simmering disputes, which involve China, the Philippines and four other claimants.
Philippines rejects new Chinese territorial claim
Among the areas being contested is the Spratlys, a chain of up to 190 islands, reefs, coral outcrops and banks believed to be sitting atop large deposits of oil and natural gas, which many fear could be Asia's next flash point for conflict.
The issue is expected to be discussed Wednesday with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The two new areas being claimed by China are not part of the Spratlys, Layug said.
The Chinese Embassy delivered a protest to the Philippine government on July 4 after Manila invited foreign companies to bid for the right to explore for oil and gas in 15 areas. Chinese officials opposed the inclusion of "areas 3 and 4" northwest of Palawan province, claiming they fall under China's "indisputable sovereignty," according to a Philippine government report seen by the AP.
Philippines rejects new Chinese territorial claim
Palawan province, about 510 miles (820 kilometers) southwest of Manila, faces the South China Sea, which is claimed entirely by China.
China asked the Philippines to cancel oil exploration in the two areas, the nearest of which is just 49 miles (79 kilometers) northwest of Palawan.
Layug said the Philippine government told China the areas are located well within Philippine waters.
"The areas that we're offering for bidding are all within Philippine territory, Layug said. "There is no doubt about that."
The two areas are more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the nearest Chinese coast, Layug said.
About 50 foreign investors, including some of the world's largest oil companies, have expressed interest in exploring for oil and gas in the Philippines, half of them in the new areas being claimed by China, because of strong indications of oil there, he said.
None of the prospective foreign companies has expressed concern over the territorial disputes, he said.
"Of course their issue would be ensuring security and the support of the Philippine government when they are awarded the contract," he said.
In March, two Chinese vessels tried to drive away a Philippine oil exploration ship from Reed Bank, another area west of Palawan. Two Philippine air force planes were deployed but the Chinese vessels had disappeared by the time they reached the submerged bank.
The Philippines protested the incident, which it said was one of several intrusions by China into its territorial waters in the first half of the year. Vietnam has also accused Chinese vessels of trying to sabotage oil exploration in its territorial waters this year, sparking rare anti-China protests in Vietnam.
A British company behind the exploration at Reed Bank found very strong indications of natural gas and plans to start drilling in about six months, Layug said.
President Benigno Aquino III plans to discuss a Philippine proposal at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit this week in Bali, Indonesia, to segregate disputed South China Sea areas so coastal states can freely make use of non-disputed areas. China has opposed the plan.
Aquino's government also plans to bring the territorial disputes before the United Nations for possible arbitration.
Source: AP
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US officials worried about security at London 2012 Olympics

US plans to send 500 FBI agents to protect its athletes as organisers admit underestimating number of security guards needed
London 2012 Olympics: UK's security preparations
London 2012 Olympics: UK's security preparations have been called into question by US officials. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
The US has raised repeated concerns about security at the London Olympics and is preparing to send up to 1,000 of its agents, including 500 from the FBI, to provide protection for America's contestants and diplomats, the Guardian has learned.
American officials have expressed deep unease that the UK has had to restrict the scope of anti-terrorism "stop and search" powers, and have sought a breakdown of the number of British police and other security personnel that will be available next summer.
The prime minister and other senior members of the cabinet, including home secretary Theresa May and culture and sport secretary Jeremy Hunt, are taking turns to chair security meetings about the Olympics, which are often dominated by the latest questions from the US, sources said. But Washington's need for reassurance is exasperating British officials and anti-terrorism officials, who have privately raised concerns about the meddling, as well as the size of the US "footprint" in the UK during the games next year.
"We are not equal partners in this," said one security official. "They are being very demanding."
The friction is adding to the pressures on the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog), which is responsible for preparing and staging the event. The Guardian has learned the committee is attempting to resolve a potential crisis over venue security, after conceding it had underestimated the number of security guards needed at the 32 sites across the country. Originally it had thought 10,000 guards would be enough, but after a review over the summer it now believes it will need up to 21,000.
Venue safety is not the responsibility of the police, so the firm G4S was awarded the contract to find and train the initial group. The company will this week begin an advertising campaign to meet that target. But the organising committee does not have the money to pay G4S to make up the shortfall, and does not believe the firm has enough time to do so, forcing ministers to turn to the Ministry of Defence for help.
The MoD has offered 3,000 soldiers, and another 2,000 in reserve – half the total required. The ministry is working within its own tight budget, and the late request for help has irritated some officials.
"What have they been doing for the last five years?" asked one. "There is less than a year to go and they've only just realised they need twice the number of security guards they first thought. Where is the money to pay for this coming from? It is an extra burden on the defence budget that we could well do without."
Another source said: "Everyone has now realised 10,000 was an underestimate. This is one of the biggest problems facing the Olympic authorities because there is an absolute dearth of vetted and qualified private security guards. Senior police had advised ministers and the committee that 10,000 was too few, but nobody wanted to listen because of the cost involved.
"The military will have to stand up some people. Otherwise G4S have got the Olympic committee over a barrel."
The problem will do little to reassure Washington, which will be supplementing its FBI personnel with an equal number of diplomatic security officials, some of whom will be armed. Though the UK's Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has lowered the threat of attack to "substantial" – the third level on the scale – western intelligence agencies remain wary.
They know it is possible that al-Qaida, or one of its affiliates, may attempt to disrupt the Olympics, with members of the US team being obvious targets.
The Home Office and Scotland Yard believe the UK has a robust security strategy, but this has not stopped American officials voicing their concerns.
The police response to the London riots, the arrest of a security guard at the London Olympics site earlier this year, and the arrests made shortly before the visit of the Pope last year have provoked anxiety among US officials. The repeal of section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allowed police to stop and search suspects with near impunity, also raised alarm. One well-placed Whitehall source said the entire Olympic security operation was being prepared "with the US in mind", adding: "The US will have no qualms in saying it is unsafe. If something happens and we say we did not have enough people, we are finished."
Another official said: "The Americans are risk-averse, with a capital A and underlined. They want to see everything. We are not equal partners in this. They want to be on top of everything – building protection, counter-terrorism strategy and VIP security – everything." Asked about the size of the US contingent heading to London next year, the official said: "They don't do things by halves."
In addition to the official American security entourage, the sponsors of the Games, including Coca-Cola, will have their own private security details, adding to the complexity of the policing operation.
The Ministry of Defence and the Home Office said no final decisions had been taken on the number of soldiers that might be needed to beef up security at some of the Olympic sites.An official said the need for an increase at the venues had become apparent when the Olympic committee began to role-play scenarios at some of the completed sites over the summer.
"The focus of the government and everyone involved is to deliver a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games that London, the UK and the world can enjoy," a government spokesman said.
"Ministers and officials from across government are working closely with the police and Locog to ensure we have a robust safety and security strategy."
Officials said ministers, the Olympic committee and G4S were working together "to finalise the requirements for Olympic venue security". "As with all significant national events, we will make the best and most appropriate use of available resources," a statement said. "The Ministry of Defence have been fully involved in supporting Olympic security planning work."
G4S said it was confident of recruiting 10,000 security guards, and could recruit more, as long as the Olympic authorities gave the company enough time. "We need to know as soon as possible," said a spokesman.
The US state department declined to comment.
Locog said detailed security plans were being drawn up in collaboration with the government and security agencies.
READ MORE - US officials worried about security at London 2012 Olympics
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