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Beijing threat overstated?

Nov. 16, 2011 at 1:25 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- A decision to expand the U.S. military presence in Australia has nothing to do with looming fears of China's rising power, U.S. President Barack Obama said.

Obama met with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and signed a new security agreement that would expand the U.S. military presence in the region.

During the summer, Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said while China's expanding military capabilities made it an important partner in peacekeeping and disaster relief operations, "the pace and scope of China's sustained military investments" was cause for concern.

Obama was quoted by The Washington Post as saying the expansion, however, had little to do with those concerns.

"I think the notion that we fear China is mistaken," he said. "The notion that we're looking to exclude China is mistaken."

China through its Foreign Ministry said it was reviewing whether U.S. military plans in the region were in line with broad-based international interests, the Post added.

An October report from U.S. think tank Rand Corp. notes Beijing will likely focus its military efforts on its immediate periphery.

While the United States could get dragged into a regional skirmish in defense of allies in Asia, Rand said conflict between Beijing and Washington is more likely in the cyber and economic realms.

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