The United States will increase the rotational presence of its forces in Australia, including bomber aircraft and fighter jets, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Tuesday after annual talks between the two allies.
Washington sees Canberra as a vital partner in its efforts to push back against China in the Indo-Pacific and analysts say Australia could have a crucial logistical role to play in the defense of Taiwan against any move by Beijing to reclaim the strategic, self-administered island.
“What we’ve agreed to do is to increase rotations of air, land and sea forces, these are rotational forces obviously, to Australia,” Austin told a news conference after the annual AUSMIN talks that included the two nations’ foreign ministers.
Austin did not provide details on when there would be an increase in the rotations or how many troops, ships and aircraft it would involve.
Austin added that the two countries also agreed to “invite Japan to integrate into our force posture initiatives in Australia.”
Australia’s Northern Territory is already host to frequent military collaborations with the United States. Thousands of U.S. Marines rotate through the territory annually for training and joint exercises, started under former President Barack Obama.
The United States is planning to deploy up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to an air base in northern Australia, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters in October, amid heightened tensions with China. read more
Last year, the United States, Britain and Australia created a security deal, known as AUKUS, that will provide Australia with the technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, riling China.
Australia has said it needs the long range and stealth capability of nuclear-powered submarines, which would carry conventional weapons.
A Pentagon report on China last week said Beijing was making a diplomatic push to criticize and “subvert” AUKUS. “PRC officials have inaccurately framed AUKUS as an act of nuclear proliferation,” it said.
Canberra has said the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that Australia is party to does not prohibit nuclear propulsion.
The White House coordinator for the region, Kurt Campbell, said earlier this year that “moving forward, everything we do of consequence in the Indo-Pacific, we will do with Australia.”
China is Australia’s largest trading partner and the top market for exported iron ore, but Canberra has grown concerned about Beijing’s military ambitions in the South Pacific after it struck a security pact with the Solomon Islands this year.
A meeting between Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping last month at the G20 was a step towards normalizing ties but would not bring a shift in Canberra’s defense policy, Australian diplomats said. read more