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US seeks more marines in Asia by rotation: Panetta

February 19, 2012

WASHINGTON - The United States plans to expand the presence of its Marines in Asia in tandem with a diplomatic pivot towards the region, US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, said.

Speaking at the Senate Armed Services Committee, Panetta said US military power in the Asia-Pacific area would not be weakened by envisioned steep budget cuts. "That's obviously a primary concern for us, because we do believe it is important to maintain a strong presence in the Pacific," he said.

Free trade pact with China still far off: Australia

February 14, 2012

CANBERRA - Australia's top diplomat has expressed frustration with the slow progress of free trade talks with China, suggesting there is unlikely to be a deal for many years to come.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary Dennis Richardson says despite 17 rounds of negotiations since April 2005, a final free trade agreement is still a very long way off.

"Quite frankly, the progress has been frustratingly slow," he said.