Top end diplomatic tango: Japan and US compete for attention. In mid-November Australia's top end will be the stopover point for regional leaders straddling two major meetings, the East Asia Summit in Singapore and the APEC gathering in Port Moresby a few days later. The ABC can reveal that during the brief period between the two summits, United States Vice-President Mike Pence will stay in Cairns, at the same time that Mr Morrison hosts his Japanese counterpart in Darwin. Mr Pence, who met with Mr Turnbull during a visit to Sydney in 2017, is expected to fly into the APEC summit each day from northern Queensland rather than staying overnight in Port Moresby.
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.
A spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, the Fitzgerald's home port, said he was unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.
The "distributed laydown" in the Pacific, which dovetails with the Marine Corps' expeditionary nature and ability to rapidly move forces from one place to another, calls for moving more than 4,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam. Whelden said hundreds of millions of dollars already have been invested on Guam, with wharves to support amphibious ready group ships already completed and ramp and hangar work ongoing for Ospreys and the new F-35B Lightning II, which the Corps called the "world's first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing fighter." "We aren't basing F-35s in Guam, but we train on Guam a lot," Whelden said. Ten of the stealth fighters this week were sent to Iwakuni, Japan, with six more expected to arrive this summer. Whelden said the relocation of about 2,700 Marines from Okinawa to Hawaii is about 10 years away.
More than half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are stationed on Okinawa under the Japan-US security treaty.