Obama visits cradle of US-Australia alliance

President Barack Obama travelled to the World War II cradle of the alliance between Australia and the United States Thursday to launch America's reinvigorated military mission in the Pacific.

"Aussie, Aussie, Aussie," Obama roared, drawing the traditional response "Oi, Oi, Oi," from 1,650 Australian troops, 50 US Marines, and 300 local officials in an aircraft hangar in the tropical northern outpost of Darwin.

"We are celebrating the 60th anniversary of our great alliance," Obama told the troops, who he called the "backbone" of US-Australia joint operations and "some of the toughest warriors in the world."

"Aussies and Americans like you have stood together since World War I, the war in so much of your national character was born," he said, a day after announcing a deployment of up to 2,500 US Marines to Darwin.

"But in a sense it was here in Darwin where our alliance was born in Australia's Pearl Harbor," Obama said, referring to a Japanese raid on Darwin in 1942 in which at least 243 people were killed.

Just before the speech, Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard toured a memorial to the USS Peary, one of the vessels sunk on that day.

"We looked out at those beautiful blue waters where so many Australians and Americans rest where they fell together," Obama said.

"The days after Darwin were tough, some thought Australia might fall, but we dusted ourselves off, we picked ourselves up, we rebuilt, and thanks to the extraordinary generation of troops, we went on to victory."

Americans and Australians have fought together in every major US war since World War I, including in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama paid tribute to the Australians killed in those last two modern conflicts, and said the allies would again join to enforce peace and security, as he reorients US policy towards the Asia-Pacific from the Middle East


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