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Abbott and Obama agree to step up defence cooperation

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has committed Australia to stronger military ties with the US after talks with President Obama.

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Washington DC: Australia has agreed to step up its defence co-operation arrangements with the United States in a meeting at the White House on Thursday morning.

It comes on top of new arrangements to rotate thousands of US marines through bases in the Northern Territory, agreed to by the Gillard Labor government in 2011. Prime Minister Tony Abbott met US President Barack Obama on Thursday morning.

White House sit-down: Prime Minister Tony Abbott meets with US President Barack Obama.

White House sit-down: Prime Minister Tony Abbott meets with US President Barack Obama. Photo: Andrew Meares

The surprise development came as Mr Obama praised Australia's closeness to America and singled it out as not just sharing the values of liberal democracy but also having the capacity to pitch in militarily where it is asked. 

"We have arrived at additional agreements around force postures that will enhance the bilateral co-operation agreement between our militaries and gives us additional reach throughout this very important part of the world," Mr Obama said in the Oval Office.

The president also noted that Australia was still increasing its defence spending despite tough economic times, "recognising that we all need to make sure that we do our fair share" for global and regional security.

Shaking on it: Abbott and Obama agree to step up defence agreements as the Iraq crisis looms.

Shaking on it: Abbott and Obama agree to step up defence agreements as the Iraq crisis looms. Photo: Andrew Meares

With Iraq suddenly descending into the chaos of civil war, Mr Obama also hinted there may be another military campaign to stabilise that war torn country and that a request for aid from Australia was possible.

He said Australians had always fought alongside Americans: “Aussies know how to fight, and I like having them in a foxhole if we're in trouble.”

‘‘In addition to the Marines that are now in Darwin and the rotation that has been established we have arrived at additional measures around force postures that will enhance the bilateral co-operation between our militaries,’’ Mr Obama said.

It would also allow for ‘‘additional reach’’ in the Asia-Pacific.

Mr Abbott said there was a range of security issues that the US was leading on and Australia was playing its part.

‘‘I want to assure the President that Australia will be an utterly dependable ally of the United States,’’ he said. ‘‘The US has to share many burdens. The US has paid a very high price to secure peace and prosperity for many countries not just itself and the US should not have to do all that work on its own.’’

The pair also discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, involving Australia, the US and 10 other countries. Mr Obama said he remained committed to a successful outcome in the negotiations.

with AAP