By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – The United States will increase the rotational presence of air, land and sea forces in Australia, including bombers and fighter jets, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday, amid shared concerns over China.
Speaking after AUSMIN’s annual talks between the allies, Austin said the two countries also agreed to “invite Japan to integrate into our efforts on force positioning in Australia.”
Austin didn’t specify when there would be an increase in rotations, or how many troops, ships and aircraft they would involve, and it wasn’t clear how the announcement differed from a similar statement more than a year ago.
“The United States and Australia share a vision of a region where countries can determine their own future,” he said at a joint news conference with his Australian counterpart that included the nations’ foreign ministers.
“Unfortunately, that view is being challenged today. China’s dangerous and coercive actions throughout the Indo-Pacific, including around Taiwan, and towards Pacific Island countries and in the East and South China Seas, threaten the regional peace and stability,” he said.
In a joint statement, the sides said that “to strengthen the US ground presence,” they would expand locations for US Army and US Marine Corps forces in Australia.
He said they will also identify priority locations to support better positioning of US forces with runway improvements, aircraft parking aprons, and fuel and ammunition depots, and has agreed to preposition depots, ammunition and fuel in support of US capabilities.
Washington sees Canberra as a vital partner in its efforts to fend off China, and analysts say Australia could have a crucial logistical role to play in defending Taiwan against any move by Beijing to reclaim the strategic, self-administered island.
The Northern Territory of Australia already hosts frequent military partnerships with the United States. Thousands of US Marines rotate to the territory each year for joint training and exercises.
The United States is planning to deploy up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers at an air base in northern Australia, a source familiar with the matter told RockedBuzz via Reuters in October.
Shortly before last year’s AUSMIN talks, the US, Britain and Australia forged a security deal, known as AUKUS, that will provide Australia with the technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.
The two sides said they had further discussions on that matter and UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace will attend a first in-person meeting of AUKUS ministers in Washington on Wednesday.
The meetings come at a critical time for the partners, who in March will have to decide whether the submarine will be British or American and establish a road map for an Australian fleet.
Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said Tuesday’s agreements “will see an increase in the level of activity between our two countries across all sectors” and are also looking at increased cooperation between forces and attitudes to enhance the capability of facilities in Australia.
“It’s really important that we’re doing this from the perspective of providing balance within our region and engaging other countries within our region,” he said.
Marles said he and Foreign Minister Penny Wong would hold similar 2+2 talks with Japan in Tokyo later in the week “with an invitation to Japan to participate in more exercises with Australia and the United States.”
He also said the United States and Australia took steps Tuesday “to create a more continuous defense industrial base” and that they needed to work more closely together “to enhance our military capability and develop new technologies.”
White House coordinator for the region, Kurt Campbell, said earlier this year that “going forward, everything we do as a result in the Indo-Pacific, we will do with Australia.”
China is Australia’s largest trading partner and major market for exported iron ore, but Canberra is increasingly concerned about Beijing’s military ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly after it struck a peace pact earlier this year. security with neighboring Australia’s Solomon Islands.
A meeting between Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping last month at the G20 was a step towards normalizing relations, but Australian diplomats have said it will not bring about a change in Canberra’s defense policy.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali, Phil Stewart and David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Costas Pitas in Washington and Kirsty Needham in Sydney; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Bernadette Baum and Lincoln Feast)
Leave a Comment