Australian troops could soon fight extremists in Asia, USA Marine Corps general says

The commander of more than 80,000 US marines in the Pacific is urging Australia to join operations against Islamic State (IS) militants in South-East Asia.

Lieutenant General David Berger is visiting Australia to check on readiness for the Talisman Sabre military exercises off the Queensland and Northern Territory coasts.

He told the ABC the "movement of violent extremist organisations" was a "very real problem" for countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Hawaii-based commanding general of US Marine Corps Forces Pacific said he expected Australian forces could soon join American personnel fighting Islamic extremists in this region.

"Both of us have a long history of being an expeditionary force when needed, so we begin from a common point I think and we've operated alongside for 100 years," General Berger said.

"Regionally where you're looking for stability, where you're looking to reassure other countries that there will be a strong enough force in the region to deter bad behaviour, I think absolutely yes — we would go where asked."

The visiting US general warned that Australia's neighbours would need assistance if they were to successfully stop the threat posed by IS-inspired militants. "I think the potential for it to spread is there, we should not underestimate it," he cautioned. "It's a different kind of a threat than North Korea but it's also a threat that moves in order to survive — it doesn't own a state so it's mobile.

$30 million RAAF Darwin boost

A $30-MILLION upgrade of aircraft facilities in Darwin forms part of the first projects outlined by the US Force Posture Initiative.

The forward work projects involve improving the aircraft maintenance facility and expanding the aircraft parking apron at RAAF Darwin.

More than 200 Territory business were guided through the procurement system of the United States Navy by a team from the Hawaii-based Naval Facilities Engineering Command. NAVFAC is the US Department of Defence organisation responsible for the delivery and management of US-funded military construction projects in Australia. Around $1 billion is expected to be spent as part of the joint Force Posture Initiative, which involves the basing of a 2500 rotational US marine force and a significant air support.

Department of Business chief executive Michael Tennant opened the day telling the group the day was about learning how to engage with the US Department of Defence.

“Today won’t be focused on specific projects, these details will be made available in future briefings,” he said.

“Today is all about working with the US procurement system and follows the event held in late 2016."

To benefit from these opportunities, industry must be prepared to invest the time necessary to learn how to engage in the US procurement system, to gain the necessary accreditations, meet the required Australian and US standards, and follow the processes and procedures required by US Defence or their prime contractors.

“It also requires thinking about how NT businesses might partner with other businesses to grow capability and capacity.”

 

An Australian Defence economic impact assessment released in 2013 estimated that the rotational deployment of just 1100 Marines would increase Gross State Product by $5.6 million in 2014.

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.