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PERTH - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has reasserted the alliance between Australia and the United States, while evading further details of the controversial use of facilities for training by US marines on the eve of the annual Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Western Australia's Perth.
The prime minister will hold a state reception for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta who both arrived here Tuesday for high- level exchanges beginning here Wednesday.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pose for photographs before a dinner at the Matilda Bay Restaurant, in Perth, Australia, Nov 13, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
Speaking to reporters, Gillard described the relationship as one based on friendship and shared values.
"The US is the oldest of allies. We've been in an alliance for more than 60 years and we are good mates at every level," she said.
"We share a strategic partnership, a defense relationship with strong economic bonds - with the US being huge investor in the Australian economy."
She side-stepped questions regarding the controversial use of Australian bases in Darwin by the US military for training purposes.
When pressed on the matter, Gillard said AUSMIN would provide an opportunity to evaluate the "medium term" goals of Australia and US military cooperation and the use of Australian facilities by US military.
"We'll look at the medium term plans for cooperation on ships and aviation, stocktaking where we got to...We will stock-take that progress and forward that defense cooperation," she said.
Gillard also described the upcoming East Asia Summit (EAS), which the prime minister has championed as a regional strategic forum.
"(The US and Australia) share strong person-to-person links, we share strong values and similar cultural outlooks on the world, " she said.
"During the course of discussions I will focus on the outlook for the East Asia Summit, where I will meet with President Obama."
AUSMIN is the key forum for strengthening cooperation on foreign policy, defense and strategic matters for the US- Australian alliance.
Held annually, the venue alternates between Australia and the United States, with the last AUSMIN held in San Francisco on September 15, 2011 marking 60 years of the ANZUS Alliance.
AUSMIN 2012 is the fifth meeting since November 2007 and the fourth with the Obama Administration.
It is also the first meeting since Australia assumed a seat as the latest member of the UN Security Council, with the Prime Minister signaling a willingness to exercise some of Australia's new-found influence.
"On the UN Security Council, I will share views on some of the big challenges including what is happening Syria and the nuclear issues involving Iran.. and we have left the door open to the continuing presence of Special Forces in Afghanistan," Gillard said.