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US Marines arrive in Australia to raise Asia-Pacific presence

The first contingent of 200 US Marines has arrived in Australia to undertake training as part of a defense cooperation deal announced by President Barack Obama in November.

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President Barack Obama addresses troops at a Darwin military base on the second day of his 2-day visit to Australia, on November 17, 2011 in Darwin, Australia. (Scott Barbour /AFP/Getty Images)

A contingent of 200 US Marines has been deployed to Australia to undertake training as part of a defense cooperation deal announced by President Barack Obama in November.

The announcement sparked widespread discussion of a counterweight to China's rise in the region. 

However, the Australian government reaffirmed in a widely reported statement Wednesday that: "There are no US military bases in Australia and this will not change."

And Obama, in announcing the plans last year, said while they sent a “clear message” of US commitment to the region, the US was not attempting to contain China, Bloomberg wrote.

More from GlobalPost: Australia rules out US Marine base in Darwin, but flags increased military cooperation

Eventually at least 2,500 Marines will train in Australia in a rotating deployment, as part of a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) — seen as a move by the US to deepen its military presence in the Asia-Pacific.

The Australian Broadcasting Authority reported that the Marines from the Hawaii-based Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines on flew in to Darwin Airport on a charter flight just before midnight local time and were greeted by Australia's Defense Minister Stephen Smith. 

The unit has recently been involved in active service in Afghanistan, ABC added.

In a joint statement cited by the Australian Associated Press, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson and Smith welcomed what they said was the latest chapter in the more than 60-year alliance with the US.

The US troops will train with members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and separately, mostly in ADF Northern Territory training areas and ranges, including the Mount Bundey and Kangaroo Flats training areas, AAP wrote.

They will also spend two months working in some of the US "partner countries" in the region, the ABC wrote.

More from GlobalPost: Australians divided over more US troops Down Under

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120403/us-marines-australia-darwin-president-barack-obama-afghanistan