US to boost military forces in Australia

Fri December 30, 2022

The United States will increase the rotational presence of air, land and sea forces in Australia, including bomber aircraft and fighter jets, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday, amid shared concerns about China.

Austin stated that the allies also decided to “ask Japan to incorporate into our force posture initiatives in Australia” after the annual AUSMIN talks.

Austin did not specify when the rotations would increase or how many soldiers, ships, or aircraft they would entail, and it was not immediately clear how this announcement was different from one made more than a year earlier.

He stated at a joint news conference with his Australian counterpart that both countries’ foreign ministries were present, “The United States and Australia share a vision of a region where countries can select their own destiny.”

“Unfortunately, that vision is under attack right now. Regional peace and security are threatened by China’s risky and forceful actions throughout the Indo-Pacific, especially near Taiwan, toward the Pacific Island nations, and in the East and South China Seas, the official added.

Analysts say Australia might play a significant logistical role in the defense of Taiwan against any drive by Beijing to recover the strategically important, self-governed island. Washington views Canberra as a key partner in its efforts to push back against China in the Indo-Pacific.

Already, the US and Australia regularly collaborate militarily in Australia’s Northern Territory. Since previous President Barack Obama’s administration, thousands of US Marines have been rotating through the region each year for training and joint exercises.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the US intends to send up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to an air base in northern Australia.

Just prior to the AUSMIN negotiations last year, the US, UK, and Australia forged a security agreement known as AUKUS that will provide Australia the means to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

The two parties said that they had more negotiations over that matter, and on Wednesday in Washington, Britain’s Defense Minister Ben Wallace will attend the first meeting of AUKUS ministers in person.

The partners are expected to determine in March whether the submarine will be British or American, and the discussions will lay out a plan for an Australian fleet.

The agreements reached on Tuesday, according to Australia’s Defense Minister Richard Marles, will “see an increased level of action between our two countries across all areas.” They are also looking at increased force-position cooperation to strengthen the capacity of Australian facilities.

From the standpoint of creating balance within our region and involving other countries within our region, he stated, “It’s absolutely vital that we are doing this.”

Similar 2+2 meetings with Japan will be held in Tokyo later this week, according to Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong, “with an invitation for Japan to be engaging in future exercises with Australia and the United States.”

He added that Tuesday’s actions by the US and Australia “to create a more seamless defense industrial base” were important, and that further cooperation was needed “to increase our military capacity and to develop new technologies.”

Kurt Campbell, the White House’s regional coordinator, stated earlier this year that “going forward, anything we do in the Indo-Pacific that is significant, we will do with Australia.”

Since Beijing signed a security agreement with Australia’s neighboring Solomon Islands this year, Canberra has grown increasingly concerned about Beijing’s military aspirations in the Indo-Pacific region, despite the fact that China is Australia’s largest trading partner and the country’s top market for exported iron ore.

Although the G20 meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last month was a step toward improving relations, Australian diplomats maintained Canberra’s military strategy will not change as a result.

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