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.
THE Australia-US alliance has never been more important, Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne said during her Top End visit on Tuesday.
Senator Payne, who was in Darwin with top US and Australian military brass, said the presence of the US Marine task force in Darwin represented a significant opportunity.
Questioned on China’s island expansion in the South China Sea, Senator Payne said Australia has been very clear about its position.
“We have encouraged all claimants – and it is important to remember there are multiple claimants – to resolve those issues peacefully in accordance with international law and according to the rules based global order,” Senator Payne said.
“We demonstrate that by our engagements in terms of freedom of navigation and freedom of over flight.
“The United States demonstrates its position according to its own approach.
DARWIN, Australia —The past casts a long shadow over this palm-lined city on Asia’s fringe. Allies upgrade facilities and Marines expand operations as China extends its reach. Darwin’s location, 400 miles from the Indonesian archipelago and 1,700 miles from the South China Sea, provides what could serve as a springboard for U.S. forces in the region.
For the U.S., Australia’s benefits go beyond confronting China. The alliance allows the U.S. to disperse forces and offset a lack of permanent bases in the Pacific outside Japan and South Korea, particularly for aircraft.
"There is a connection that could be made between the geopolitical competition that we're starting to see unfold in the Pacific, with China becoming more present as an actor (including military deployments that will become more regular in the future) and Australia doesn't want that gap to be filled by outside actors." ^/s
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