PM hints at closer US military ties

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has hinted at closer military ties with the United States only a day after dismissing such suggestions as speculation.

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Ms Gillard said an agreement to allow more visits by US ships and aircraft would be discussed at the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) talks in Melbourne on Monday.

Such as agreement would be part of the US Force Posture Review, which is also examining refuelling strategies, Ms Gillard said.

“It does give the possibility, of course, for further joint exercises, further collaboration, that’s in Australia’s interest,” she told the Nine Network.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith will attend the AUSMIN talks on Monday with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

The rise of China and exiting the war in Afghanistan would be up for discussion, Ms Gillard said.

She will not be at the talks in Melbourne but announced on Sunday she would be attending NATO talks at Lisbon in November to discuss the military situation in Afghanistan.

An exact date for the talks is yet to be announced but it is understood the prime minister could be attending during a weekend between the last two sitting weeks of parliament for 2010.

Asked about the message she would take, Ms Gillard said the transition to local Afghan forces needed to be irreversible.

“I’ve been very clear, it would be a bad error to transition out only to have to transition back in,” she said.

“So the conditions that would lead to transition are the pivotal discussions now, I expect it to be had in part here in Australia during the AUSMIN talks, I then expect it to be had even more comprehensively in the NATO discussions in Lisbon.”