Tony Abbott to seek assurances from Barack Obama US pivot to Asia is proceeding

WASHINGTON DC: Australia will seek assurances from US President Barack Obama that his much criticised strategic "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific announced in the Australian parliament during the presidential visit of 2011, is proceeding apace.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott will hold his first ever meeting with the two-term president in the White House overnight.

He is expected to directly reinforce his message issued days ago that a strong American presence is needed in the region and that China's rise is both inevitable and manageable.

It is believed Mr Abbott's own assessment is that Asia needs a balance of power given the strategic and economic might of the new China and that basing of US military assets in Australia including some troops rotating through the north, as envisaged in the pivot, is crucial to that.

Also expected to come up is the Five-Eyes intelligence sharing agreement between the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Britain. The agreement has come under scrutiny because large tracts of classified information have been leaked through security breaches at the US end.

Some of those breaches have caused major embarrassment to Australia particularly in its relationship with Indonesia after Australian spying operations on top level phones in 2009 were made public.

However, Mr Abbott is expected reinforce Australia's view that the Five-Eyes agreement is vital to the safety and security of all participating democracies.

Mr Abbott has also confirmed that former Labor leader Kim Beazley's term as US ambassador has been extended to December 2015 and the government will also recommend that Foreign Affairs and Trade department deputy secretary Gillian Bird be appointed Australia's ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations.

Mr Abbott, who has been starkly critical of the Obama government in the past will attempt smooth over such issues giving Mr Obama a surfboard at their meeting.

The story Tony Abbott to seek assurances from Barack Obama US pivot to Asia is proceeding first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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