A group of 180 US Marines arrived last night in Darwin, Australia, in the first wave of what will eventually be a 2,500-strong US presence on the island continent. Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith officially welcomed the Marines in a ceremony today, the New York Times reports. "One thing is absolutely sure and certain today: You are very welcome here," he told the troops, according to video posted on ABC News.
"The world is moving into our part of the world," Smith said before the ceremony, acknowledging that the move was intended to counter the rise of China and India. China has accused the US of ratcheting up tensions with the deployment, but US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich dismissed those concerns. "There's this kind of sexy, fun narrative that you hear from pundits and others trying to suggest this is about China, but it's not," he said, explaining that Darwin was simply a great place for amphibious maneuver training.