US warships might be seen in Darwin Harbour

US warships could soon become a more familiar sight in Darwin Harbour.

US Senate armed services committee chair John McCain has put a stronger US and Australian naval presence to the north of Australia firmly on his agenda during his coming visit to Australia.

Darwin and Perth have traditionally been ports of call for US warships when operating in the Pacific.

Senator McCain, who will meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, will lay on the table the strategy behind Donald Trump’s Asia-Pacific plan to combat China’s behaviour in the South China Sea and how a heavier US and Australian naval presence in the region would achieve “peace through strength” in the region.

He said the US was developing strategies for the Asia-Pacific region which he thought would have a lot to do with future strategic co-operation with Australia.

“I think Australia could play a key role, particularly since we are witnessing a very large investment in an expanded US navy in the decade ahead,” Mr McCain said.

Mr McCain’s comments on an increase in naval forces in the region comes at the same time the US has beefed up its military strength in Darwin. The US has just sent to Darwin the sixth and most complex US marine air ground task force to be deployed to the Territory. Along with 1250 battle ready marines it has a large aviation combat element.

North Korea singles out Darwin as the launch pad for nuclear war

 

AUSTRALIA’S Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has slammed North Korea after its state-run newspaper identified Darwin as the site of a possible nuclear war.

Last week, US marines touched down in the NT capital for a six-month deployment, during which they will conduct military training exercises with Australian and visiting Chinese forces.

Commanding Officer of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton, said the 1250 US Marine deployment to Darwin stands ready to fight if tensions between his country and North Korea escalate into direct conflict.

But while Lieut. Colonel Middleton said US Marines were ready for battle, Rodong Sinmun, the official paper of the Worker’s Party of North Korea, had its own take on the Darwin arrival, claiming the United States was using Australian territory in preparation of nuclear war.

“This is the largest scale US military presence in Australia after World War 2,” the newspaper reported on Monday under the headline “America prepares for nuclear war in different overseas military deployments”.

“America is fanatically, crazily trying to optimise its nuclear war readiness.”

The Foreign Ministry of the DPRK warned overnight the Turnbull government is “blindly and zealously toeing the US line”.

“It is entirely attributable to the nuclear threat escalated by the US and its anachronistic policy hostile to the DPRK that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching close to the brink of war in an evil cycle of increasing tensions.

“If Australia persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK.”

It comes as Korean Central News Agency claims five million of North Korea’s youth “are hardening their will to wipe out the enemies with the surging rages at them” and were “waiting for the final order”.

 

Australia’s Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has laughed off North Korea’s latest claims, telling the ABC the US deployment in Darwin, the sixth and most complex US marine air-ground task force to be deployed to the Territory, has been a “longstanding government policy”.

US Marine deployment in Darwin no threat to Indonesia, says Commanding Officer Lt Col Brian S. Middleton

INDONESIA has nothing to fear from the deployment of US Marines in the Territory, the Commanding Officer of the Marine Rotational Force Darwin said on Tuesday.

Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton had just landed with the first 200 of 1250 US marines who will form the sixth and most complex US marine air ground taskforce to be deployed to the Territory.

Although reluctant to comment on the issue, Lt-Colonel Middleton said he was aware of comments made by Indonesia’s armed forces chief Gatot Nurmantyo in January questioning the US marine presence in Darwin.

General Nurmantyo said while pretending to be on a visit to Darwin he spent 90 minutes on the harbour looking at US marine facilities.

“I saw two landing bases had already been built. Even though Australia is a continental state — what does it need marines for?” he told Indonesian media.

The Indonesian general has previously criticised Australia’s hosting of US marines.

“I am aware of his comments … Indonesia has nothing to fear from US marine deployments to Darwin,” he said. “The US alliance with Australia remains strong and we know why we are here. That is for US Marines and Aussie Diggers to train and operate alongside each other.”

It is believed General Gatot Nurmantyo has political ambitions and Lt-Colonel Middleton agreed that the General’s comments were probably aimed at local consumption. However, he pulled no punches when asked about the role the 1250-strong marine air ground taskforce deployment would play if tensions between his country and North Korea escalated into direct conflict.

 

US troops arrive in Top End for Marine Rotational Force Darwin

Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton, says the 1250 US Marine deployment to Darwin stands ready to fight if tensions between his country and North Korea escalate into direct conflict.

Lieut. Colonel Middleton said when US Marines were in forward deployment they were ready for battle.

Lieut. Colonel Middleton is leading the sixth and most complex US marine air-ground task force to be deployed to the Territory.

Along with the 1250 marines that make up the latest Darwin rotation of US troops, it will eventually include up to 13 aircraft, four tilt-rotor Ospreys, five Super Cobra helicopters and four Huey helicopters.

When asked about the North Korea stand-off he said: “We stand ready to fight.”

The marines are from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, California. They will be based at Robertson Barracks, RAAF Base Darwin and Defence Establishment Berrimah.

Marine Rotational Force Darwin is mainly a series of joint exercises, training and exchanges between the US and the Australian Defence Force, but some exercises will also involve military personnel from China and other Asian countries.

The US has rotated a small force of Marines through Darwin since 2012. It was originally planned to send a full Marine Air-Ground Task Force of 2500 Marines to Australia by 2016, but the timeline has been pushed back to around 2020.

US marines arriving in NT ready for anything

More than 1,000 US marines begin arriving in the Top End and say they are ready for whatever may happen as North Korea escalates its nuclear threat.

The first group of 1,250 marines touched down in Darwin on Tuesday morning for their sixth annual dry season rotation in the Top End.

Their arrival comes as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop defended US President Donald Trump's "they gotta behave" message to North Korean leadership after its failed missile test on Sunday.

"[North Korea] is on a path to achieving nuclear weapons capability and we believe Kim Jong-un has a clear ambition to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload as far as the US," Ms Bishop said.

"That would mean Australia would be in reach so unless it is prevented from doing so, it will be a serious threat to the peace and stability of our region, and that is unacceptable."

In Darwin, the rotation's commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Brian Middleton said the force was ready, come what may.

"Any time a marine force is forward deployed, we are always on standby for anything," he said.
He said this year's contingent was "the most robust package" the marines had put together for training in the Top End, featuring an "ace aviation combat element" of 13 aircraft.

Over the next two weeks, the deployment's largest fleet of military aircraft yet will be brought to Australia as part of the agreement, including four high-speed troop transporters, the MV-22 Osprey, five Super Cobra helicopters and four Huey helicopters. The next six months will see the troops train with their Australian counterparts and other nations, including Japan and China.