The US military has big plans for Australia — and that might be a big problem for China

The US military is considering investing more than $211 million into construction in Darwin, Australia, according to the Senate's version of the annual defense legislation.

What that money will build is unknown. The Marine and Navy officials Marine Corps Times reached out to have yet to provide a statement.

Australian outlet ABC News reported that secret planning is underway to develop a new commercial port just outside of Darwin that could eventually be developed to house Australia's landing helicopter dock ships or the US amphibious assault ships that ferry Marines around the globe.

While Australia is one of America's most important military allies in the Pacific, the military construction could cause diplomatic headaches for Australia and sour its relationship with China, which over the years has become more economically intertwined.

"...even our best allies, the Australians, they're with us from a military perspective, but economically they're tied to China," Maj. Gen. Daniel Yoo, the commander of the Marine Raiders, told Marine Corps Times in an interview during a May special operations conference in Tampa, Florida.

"And so they have a problem internal to their own country as far as there's some that feel they should be closer to China, because their economic health is dependent upon it."

Congress may review the Corps' plan to redistribute its forces across the Pacific.

Troops practice island-seizing in the Pacific amid US-China tensions

Marines, airmen and soldiers recently practiced seizing a small Japanese island in an exercise that honed skills some experts say may be necessary in a face-off against China.

This entire mission profile simulated the process of securing advanced footholds for follow-on forces to conduct further military operations with rapid redeployment.

It kicked off with a free-fall jump onto Japan’s Ie Jima Island for reconnaissance and surveillance before 1st Battalion, 4th Marines “conducted a 600-mile long-range raid” to seize an airfield on the island.

This kind of approach could be necessary should the U.S. need to face-off against China, said American defense and security analyst Paul Buchanan: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Marines are engaging in these sorts of exercises because that’s exactly the combat environment that they’re most likely to find themselves in, at least in the near future,”

No guarantee Trump trade war deal won't hurt Australian exporters: US envoy

While South Korea and the US have signed a new deal to increase Seoul's contribution to the cost of deploying US troops, addressing one of Mr Trump's frequent criticisms that allies were freeloading off the back of the US military machine, Mr Culvahouse indicated it was unlikely similar demands would be made of Australia on the deployment of 2500 Marines in Darwin.

New US ambassador to Australia Arthur B. Culvahouse has also criticised China's "pay day loans" to impoverished Pacific nations as he arrives in Canberra.

gimme loans over bombs any day.

APEC Navy Base United States MAnus | ten daily

The United States has stunned many in the Pacific, announcing it will partner with Australia in developing a joint naval base in Papua New Guinea.
The revelation was delivered during a stinging speech by American Vice President, MIke Pence at the APEC Summit, warning pacific nations not to accept over-burdensome loans from China -- loans often sneeringly referred to as 'debt diplomacy.'

"Today it's my privilege to announce that the United States will partner with PNG and Australian on their joint initiative on their base on Manus Island," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier foreshadowed the announcement in an earlier speech, "Australia is stepping up. We will step up. [We are] stepping up to a whole new level."

China would see this as an affront to their strategic ambitions in the Pacific region.

US, Australian forces train in Darwin

The presence of more than 1500 US marines in Darwin should be welcomed and is a "really positive engagement", Defence Minister Marise Payne says.

Senator Payne made the comments after viewing a computer simulation exercise involving Australian and US forces in which bombs explode in Darwin's Cullen Bay and the troops respond during a visit to Robertson Barracks in the Top End.

The simulator can be used for mission rehearsal exercises for any scenario before going to an "operational or live firing environment", Australian Army's Major Max Williams told the minister.

The number of US marines in Darwin has been gradually increasing to 2500 since first being stationed in 2012.

There are 15 different joint training exercises planned over the next six months.

The meeting comes at a time of increased tension between China and both the US and Australia. The US withdrew an invitation to China to attend the Rim of the Pacific naval exercises this year and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis warned Beijing during a speech in Singapore last weekend of consequences over its aggression in the South China Sea.