United States Will Deploy Thousands of Troops in the Northern Territory After Australia Admitted War With China Is Possible
By LEVI PARSONS
– US Army servicemen will be deployed in the Northern Territory for the first time
– They will join a rotational force of more than 200 US Marines by September
– Comes after Australia signed historic AUKUS pact with America and Britain
– Beijing has fumed at the new alliance, with state media warning of nukes
Thousands of American soldiers trained to use surface-to-air missile systems, High Mobility Artillery Rockets and unmanned aircraft are bound for Australia as tensions grow with China.
The rotational US Marine force of about 2200 servicemen and women will be based in the Northern Territory during the upcoming dry season from September.
It is the 11th deployment to the Top End and for the first time will include 250 US Army personnel, the Australian Defence Force announced.
The contingent is part of an ongoing US initiative in the Indo-Pacific region to prepare for a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan in coming years.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton in September warned conflict with China ‘shouldn’t be discounted’ and on Wednesday told the US Studies Centre Beijing may look to annex Taiwan while the world is preoccupied with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In September, Peter Dutton warned that the risk of fighting with China ‘shouldn’t be discounted’ and was ‘up to the Chinese’
The marine deployment will complement that Enhanced Air Co-operation program between the Royal Australian Air Force and United States Air Force.
About 1000 Marines have already landed in Darwin.
They will train with the ADF to ensure they are able to respond to crises in the region.
That could include humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, evacuation missions, and reinforcing US embassies or military operations.
Darwin’s location just south of more than a dozen Asian countries and some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes makes it a strategic stepping-off point.
The training will include live-fire military exercises to improve cohesion between Australian and US forces and those of other regional allies.
Commander of the ADF’s northern force Colonel Marcus Constable said the US alliance was Australia’s most important defence relationship and central to the nation’s security plan.
Australia will acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines and a host of other advanced military technology from the UK and US after singing an historic deal aimed at countering China’s growing power
‘The (Marine rotational force) is a key way we increase regional co-operation with partners in the Indo-Pacific,’ he said.
‘Together we conduct a comprehensive range of training activities including humanitarian assistance, security operations and high-end live fire exercises.’
Colonel Christopher Steele, the US Marine Corps commander in Darwin, said the Marines from southern California were excited to contribute to regional security.
The Marines are expected to complete the rotation in October.
The announcement comes as Mr Dutton warned ‘credible military force’ would be used, if necessary, to deter the spread of authoritarianism in the Indo-Pacific.
In an address to the United States Studies Centre, Mr Dutton warned of ‘ominous signs’ stemming from a Chinese-Russian alliance, saying Australia and the US would step up to shape the Indo-Pacific around mutual interests.
‘Australia and the United States are in lock-step in our commitment to regional stability,’ he told the forum.
The defence minister targeted China directly, saying the Communist Party chiefs may seek to use the cover of the conflict in Ukraine as ‘a useful distraction and an opportunity to pursue their own acts of aggression and coercion.’
‘This threat emanates chiefly from Beijing, which has its own openly stated territorial ambitions, and which recently entered a ‘no-limits’ cooperative partnership with the Kremlin,’ Mr Dutton said.
To counter Beijing’s growing aggression in the region the US, Australia and the UK announced the AUKUS pact which will see Canberra secure nuclear-powered submarines in the coming decades.
The move outraged the communist superpower with state-controlled media outlets warning the move could see Australia become the target of nuclear strikes.
Labor defence spokesman Brendan O’Connor told the USSC the ALP would seek to maintain strategic ambiguity over Taiwan – which China regards as its territory and not an independent nation.
It follows comments from the defence minister, who said it would be ‘inconceivable’ Australia would not back US troops in a military conflict over the island.
‘This is because declaring intended military action in response to hypothetical situations only serves to tilt the strategic calculation in favour of those who seek to instigate conflict,’ Mr O’Connor said.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese said China needed to be called out for stance on Ukraine, after Beijing offered Russia economic lifelines that will enable it to withstand Western sanctions.
‘China has a responsibility to call out Russia’s behaviour and its aggression,’ Mr Albanese said.
‘It’s outrageous. It’s against international law and it should be called out by all countries, including China, which has a particular responsibility due to its closeness to Russia and also because it’s a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.’
Mr Dutton further warned of the possibility Australia would be targeted by escalating cyber-attacks, following its support of Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.
‘The Kremlin has long sought to weaponise the internet as a means of conducting a form of asymmetric warfare in the post-Soviet era,’ he said.
Mr Dutton also labelled Russia’s invasion an ‘unprecedented disaster’ that could destroy President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian president would be evaluating the costs and outcomes of the conflict in Ukraine to determine his next steps in the fight, he added.
A united West – in defiance of the response Mr Putin was expecting following the invasion – was the only thing standing between ‘liberty and the abyss’, Mr Dutton said.
‘Today, it is the Ukrainian people fighting to defend their freedoms against extinction,’ he added.
‘If President Putin succeeds, all free nations will face a darker tomorrow.’
It comes as the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning President Putin as a war criminal.
Marine Rotational Force-Darwin is a US Force Posture Initiative designed to deepen inter-operability between the Australian Defence Force and US military. Members of the seventh rotation deployed in 2018 are pictured
The US has placed a fresh round of sanctions on Russian military leaders and suspected human rights abusers, as well as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
US President Joe Biden is also planning to visit European NATO allies for the first time since the invasion began.
But as Russian troops edge closer to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was unlikely the country would be joining the NATO military alliance.
Mr Putin has said steps toward integrating a Russian neighbour into NATO were the main trigger for the ongoing invasion.
‘We have heard for many years about the open doors, but we also heard that we can’t enter those doors,’ Mr Zelensky said.
‘This is the truth, and we have simply to accept it as it is.’
Mr Zelensky will address the US Congress on Wednesday (AEST), likely in a bid for more help.
The pact does not make the design of Australia’s new submarines clear, but they will be based on previous US and UK designs. Pictured above is a cross-section of Britain’s Astute-class nuclear attack subs, which is likely to mirror the new vessels