Military deal with Japan to counter China’s might

Japan’s military could conduct exercises out of Darwin under a historic defence agreement being negotiated by Malcolm Turnbull and Shinzo Abe, as part of a multi-pronged strategy to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

The wide-ranging agreement, which will also allow military equipment and ammunition to be transported far more easily between the countries, will be progressed during the Prime Minister’s trip to Tokyo next week, as Australia faces a growing row with China over government criticism of Beijing’s Pacific aid.

Mr Turnbull will arrive in Tokyo on Thursday to meet the Japanese Prime Minister, who has been keen to amend his country’s post-World War II constitution to give the military a more legitimate role on the world stage. The trip follows Mr Abe’s visit to Australia last year.

Australia and Japan have championed building up regional alliances — such as the revived Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between Japan, India, the USA and Australia — in the face of China’s increasing dominance in the ­region.

Mr Turnbull has said he and Mr Abe will discuss a new visiting forces agreement, a type of ­arrangement that Japan has with one other country — the USA.

Australian Strategic Policy ­Institute head Peter Jennings said he expected the deal would allow for Japanese forces to conduct ­exercises in Australia.

"I’d expect there’d be an ­opportunity for more army ­engagement, including, ironically enough, perhaps out at Darwin, maybe doing trilateral activities with the US marines there.”

the deal is expected to be signed this year, paving the way for the Japanese Self-Defence Force troops to train in Australia.

U.S. chopper makes emergency landing on Ikeijima Island, Okinawa

A U.S. military helicopter carrying four people made an emergency landing Saturday afternoon on a small islet in Okinawa Prefecture.

The chopper apparently landed about 100 meters from a house, a local resident said.

The aviation incident is the latest involving U.S. aircraft in the prefecture, where opposition to the huge U.S. military presence is rife.

The island is the same one where an AH-1 attack helicopter based at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma made an emergency landing on a farm path on Jan. 20 last year.

“I’m speechless. The frequency is too often. It cannot be helped but to think there’s a systemic problem within the U.S. military,” Okinawa Deputy Gov. Moritake Tomikawa told reporters.

“I felt it was dangerous because the helicopter was lowering altitude and heading toward the coast with a rattling noise,” he said. “The U.S. military always prioritizes military operations and neglects the anxieties of local residents,” said Tamaki, who heads the local residents’ association.

A Labor government would look to grow USA military presence in Australia

US FORCES would get the nod from a future federal Labor Government to expand its military footprint in Australia in an apparent reversal of party policy that had seen a cooling in language on the alliance in favour of a greater focus on China.

Two years ago the party’s platform draft at its national conference watered down its foreign policy view of the ANZUS Treaty, significantly dropping references to it being the “bedrock” of regional stability and a national “asset” in favour of strengthening recognition to China’s growth.

Late last year former Labor leader Paul Keating called for Australia to “cut the tag” with the US and focus more on Asia while foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said Donald Trump marked a “change point” that needed to be assessed.

But Labor’s Defence spokesman Richard Marles said yesterday there was room to work with both with America as Australia’s “most important bilateral relationship” and China whose right to rise as a power should be recognised.

The US already has a strong presence in Australia with its annual rotation of 1250 US Marines and a dozen combat aircraft through Darwin in the Northern Territory, joint intelligence facilities in Western Australia and Pine Gap near Alice Springs and regular joint training exercises.

But Mr Marles said there was scope for more and he was not buying in to some defence analysts predicting a US foreign policy “retreat” in the region by the Trump administration although said such deep national alliance debate including Trump’s policy by Tweet was a positive.

“I think the greater American commitment to East Asia, the better,” he said. “I’m absolutely up for a discussion on growing the US relationship in terms of however, whatever, it wants to involve itself with here." #FFS

USAF B-1B Lancers to train with RAAF in Qld

RAAF Base Amberley will host up to two United States Air Force (USAF) B-1B Lancers as part of the United States-Australia Force Posture Initiatives.

The USAF B-1B Lancers are long-range, multi-mission, supersonic conventional bomber aircraft and will be taking part in a training exercise with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during the last week in November and the first week of December this year.

Minister for Defence Senator the Hon Marise Payne said the training will enable RAAF aircrew to meet flying qualifications and give them an opportunity to exercise with one of the world’s most technologically advanced armed forces.

“This training exercise is part of the United States-Australia Force Posture Initiatives Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) program, which builds on a range of air exercises and training activities already undertaken between the United States and Australia,” Minister Payne said.

“The EAC program is a practical demonstration of Australia’s support for a strong and engaged US presence in the region.”

EAC activities involve short term rotations of US aircraft through Australia for up to two months at a time. The first EAC activity commenced in February 2017 at RAAF Base Tindal with 12 USAF F-22 Raptors conducting combined training with RAAF F/A-18 Hornets.

This activity will be the fifth and final EAC activity in 2017. The exercise will involve USAF B-1Bs and RAAF aircraft conducting flying training in designated airspace away from RAAF Base Amberley.

US military vehicles & homes vandalized after drunk marine blamed for fatal Okinawa car crash

Dozens of vehicles and apartment buildings affiliated with the US military in Japan were vandalized in Okinawa, shortly after a local man was killed in car crash blamed by authorities on a drunken American marine.

A total of 29 civilian vehicles owned by US personnel in Japan were covered with paint early on Monday in the towns of Ginowan and Chatan in Okinawa, Stars and Stripes, the official US military newspaper, reported.

The cars had the blue-colored English letter ‘Y’ painted on them by unidentified perpetrators, the paper said. The marking may be explained by the fact that ‘Y’ is usually added to the license plates of vehicles owned by those who are covered by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which provides a legal framework to the vast US military presence in Japan.

On Sunday, Japanese law enforcement detained Lance Cpl. Nicholas James-McLean over a fatal road accident. The US marine is said to have ignored a red light, crashing his two-ton military truck into a vehicle driven by a 61-year-old local man, who was later pronounced dead in hospital. According to the results of a breath test, James-McLean’s blood alcohol level was three times over the limit allowed in Japan.