Darwin, Australia's most northerly capital, is around 2,500 miles from Canberra, the country's capital. The city is a mere 500 miles from the coast of Indonesia.
Even if he didn't have "Forward Operating Base Crocodile Dundee" to inspect (that's a joke... but surely not a bad idea), Barack Obama could not have chosen a better place to send a message to Asia.
"The USA is here to stay," he said (sort of) a mere shouting distance (sort of) from Asia's most southerly shores. The world's most populous Muslim country, no less. But, then, Obama knows a thing or two about Indonesia.
Sure, he was already headed that way — to the security East Asia summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, where the issue of who really owns the South China Sea is already squarely on the agenda.
Obama chose Darwin as the place to repeat remarks that the Asia-Pacific is a "top priority" of US security policy — only hours he emphatically told Australian lawmakers in Canberra that:
"The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay."
Obama has pledged not to let budget concerns in Washington compromise his administration's plans to increase the US military presence in the region.
He neglected to mention specifically that his vision — applauded at every turn during Obama's 27-hour visit by Australia's seemingly starstruck leaders — will put more U.S. troops, ships and aircraft much closer to the South China Sea, over which Beijing has sovereignty disputes with several countries.
(GlobalPost reports: Obama tells Asia that US is "here to stay" as Pacific power)
Addressing 2,000 Australian and US troops in tropical Darwin, Obama made an oblique reference to the city's proximity to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.
According to Reuters:
The new de facto U.S. base in Australia expands the direct US military presence in Asia beyond South Korea and Japan and into Southeast Asia, an area where China has growing economic and strategic interests.
"It was here in Darwin that our alliance was born during Australia's 'Pearl Harbor'," Obama said, Reuters reported.
Although more bombs were dropped on Darwin during a World War II Japanese raid than in Hawaii, US-Australian troops regrouped and went on to major Pacific victories, Obama reminded them.
Amid all the talk of "proud" chapters in history and enduring alliances, Obama touched on the economic imperative — seen as key to winning support in Washington for a switch in focus and funds from the Middle East to Southeast Asia.
He said US and Australian forces, training and working together in the near future, would ensure security of the Asian sea lanes to the north that were critical for both economies, according to The Washington Post.
"This is the future we seek in the Asia Pacific — security, prosperity and dignity for all," Obama said. "That’s what we stand for. That’s who we are. That’s the future we will pursue, in partnership with allies and friends, and with every element of American power. So let there be no doubt: In the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in."
Before boarding Air Force One for the flight to Bali and the East Asia Summit, Obama left his audience with these few enduring words:
"I want to hear it, so let me say it first: Auzzy, Auzzy, Auzzy!" he chanted, reportedly drawing a near identical response. "Ozzy Ozzy Ozzy!"
Perhaps you had to be there.