Canberra is offering the U.S. the chance to base more marines and warships in Australia, with Defence Minister Peter Dutton declaring Thursday he wants greater military cooperation with the country’s closest ally as China works to boost its presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
ABC News reports the push is based on a proposal to form a new joint U.S. marines and Australian Defence Force (ADF) training brigade based in the northern city of Darwin.
If established, the joint brigade would be the first of its kind for Australia and would likely involve a rotating command with the United States.
Dutton agreed there was scope to increase the size of the existing U.S. marine rotational force in Darwin from its pre-coronavirus level of 2,500, and to base U.S. Navy ewarships at HMAS Stirling near Perth, Western Australia.
The diplomatic push by Australia comes after it announced last November it will join Japan in a regional defense pact designed to strengthen their combined standing against Beijing’s increasingly belligerent foreign policy moves, as Breitbart News reported.
Australia will join Japan in a regional defense pact designed to bolster their standing against Beijing’s growing military power and assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. https://t.co/ZYhlX6LwSA
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) November 10, 2020
In his first major policy speech since taking over the defence portfolio, Dutton declared Australia’s security depended on closer military ties with its U.S. ally.
“I think that is in our own security interest, and I think it is in the interest of the U.S. as well,” he said. “In terms of composition and numbers and what it might look like, I will leave that for another day.
“But there is a desire by us to see a further strengthening of that relationship and that engagement.”
Speaking to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Dutton also addressed the question of how Australia should navigate its relationship with China.
“We have a respectful relationship with China from our own perspective. We are a peaceful nation, we seek to support our neighbours particularly in a time of need, and we have a need for that in response,” he said.
The U.S. Navy’s newest littoral combat ship, the USS Canberra, was christened Saturday in Mobile, Alabama, in a salute both to Australia’s capital city and the enduring alliance between the two nations in war and peace. https://t.co/PA6HrT1MqI
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) June 6, 2021
The joint diplomatic efforts striving to bring Washington and Canberra even closer is seen as a crucial counterbalance to Beijing’s military which has expanded and advanced rapidly in recent years in both the Indian and Pacific oceans.
China is developing aircraft carrier strike groups and missile systems, fortified several islets in the South China Sea, launched almost continuous exercises around Taiwan and sought to crush Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
Australians have fought alongside Americans in every major U.S. military action of the last century, including World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The two countries first came together under unified command at the Battle of Hamel in France in July, 1918 led by Australian General John Monash.
Australia remains one of the largest importers of U.S. arms (of both commercial and government origin) in the world, and in the past month alone the U.S. State Department has approved three potential arms deals for its ally totalling $6.8 billion.
This is destined to provide the ADF with 160 new Abram M1A1 tank structures and more air capability including additional Boeing CH-47F cargo helicopters and 29 AH-64E Apache helicopters.