|Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks during a Victorian Labor Party's annual conference in Melbourne, Australia, on April 20, 2013. (Xinhua/Xu Yanyan)
By Xu Yanyan, Song Dan and Gui Qing
MELBOURNE, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Saturday that China should not be concerned of the U.S. marines based in the country's northern city of Darwin, stressing the Huawei issue doesn't reflect Canberra's economic cooperation with Beijing and reiterating her full support for Chinese investment.
Gillard made the comments at a Victorian Labor Party's annual conference when answering questions from Xinhua and other local media.
AUSTRALIA WELCOMES U.S. REBALANCE IN THE REGION
The first 200 U.S. marines arrived in northern Australia last April as part of the defence deal between Canberra and Washington. Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith said last week that 200 to 250 American soldiers would arrive in Darwin which locates in the Northern Territory in coming days, and the troop numbers based in there will increase to 2,500 in the next five to six years.
Analysts in regional counties have indicated that it's a support to the U.S. containment to China's rise. However, the Australian prime minister insisted China should not worry the deployment.
"We are a long term ally with the United States, well known in the (Asia Pacific) region, well known in the world and well known to China, there's no reason for concern," Gillard told Xinhua.
She said it's because U.S. marines in Darwin work across the region on things like disaster management and Australia looks forward to working on exercises with regional countries like bringing humanitarian assistance.
Referring to the U.S. shift of its strategic gaze from the Middle East to the Asia Pacific, Gillard said Australia looks the strategic balance in the region and welcomes the fact that the United States has rebalanced towards the Asia Pacific "which is a good thing", adding she thinks the United States, China and Australia can work together for peace and prosperity for the region.
CHINESE INVESTMENT IS WELCOME DESPITE THE BAN ON HUAWEI
Chinese technology giant Huawei was banned last year for security reasons by the Australian government from bidding the high speed National Broadband Network (NBN).
The company has accused the ban as "political" and some Australian politicians worried the decision may hurt the Australia- China trade and economic relationships.
Gillard didn't answer the Huawei issue straightforward, stressing her government is very clear that the Chinese investment is welcomed in Australia.
"If you look over the period which we have been in government, almost 400 Chinese investment proposals have gone before Foreign Investment Review Board and no one has been rejected," she told reporters.
"And of that huge number only six have conditions put on them. So the record here is we welcome Chinese investment and of course Australian firms also want to invest in China," Added the prime minister.
In an interview with Xinhua, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy who accompanied with Gillard to Melbourne also evaded the Huawei issue, repeating "the rules to invest in Australia is clear and in terms of the openness of our economy, Australian compares favorably nearly every nation in the world."
"FTA TALKS WITH CHINA SENSITIVE"
When asked by Xinhua what are the major obstacles in reaching an agreement with China over the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) after nine years' discussions, Gillard said there are some sensitivities on both sides and her government is working to secure an agreement on some issues with positive prospects.
"We are both economies that are rich and complex and have many industry segments, we got diverse economy, China has increasingly diverse economy too, that means there can be some sensitivities that need to be worked through and we are seeking to work through in a spirit of good will," said Ms Gillard.
Answering whether the FTA issue could be resolved in the near future, she implied there's no time table for the agreement, saying the two countries will keep on working on better and further exchange in trade and in investment.
Gillard was just back from her trip to China, where she met with the country's new top leaders and announced "strategic partnership" with Beijing.
Local analysts said her visit to China had brought the relationship between the two countries to a new level and branded it as the major diplomatic achievement or "legacy" in her term of office.
"It shows that Julia Gillard is part of a long tradition of Australian prime ministers who have really defined their foreign policy around what sort of relationship they can build with China, "said Professor Michael Wesley, from the ANU National Security College when he talked to the local ABC radio.
"It shows that Australia is important to China, probably mostly because of our position as a major supplier of the resources that China needs to continue its economic development,"he added.