CANBERRA - US President Barack Obama vowed on Thursday that budget cuts would not thwart plans for a wider US military role in Asia and declared during a trip to the region that America was "here to stay" as a Pacific power.
Nervous about China's growing clout, US allies such as Japan and South Korea have sought assurances from the United States that it would be a strong counterweight in the region.
Obama, during a two-day stop in Canberra, used a speech to the Australian Parliament to allay concerns that intensifying pressure in Washington to cut the budget deficit would lead to a weakened US footprint in Asia.
"As the United States puts our fiscal house in order, we are reducing our spending. And yes, after a decade of extraordinary growth in our military budgets - and as we definitively end the war in Iraq, and begin to wind down the war in Afghanistan - we will make some reductions in defense spending," Obama said in prepared remarks.
But he added that "reductions in US defense spending will not - I repeat, will not - come at the expense of the Asia Pacific."