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US war games test Aus-China relations

  • 29 July 2019


The annual deployment of United States Marines to Darwin reached a peak this year of 2500. This deployment is underwritten by the Force Posture Agreement (FPA) between the US and Australian governments, which was signed in 2014 and was an outcome of President Obama's 'Pivot to Asia' strategy for the US military. It meant relocating US military forces from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific to confront and contain China.

The FPA contains the following open-door policies to the US: It gives the US Air Force unimpeded access to Australia's airfields and facilities for their fighters and bombers as well as seaports for their naval ships; and it gives the US military and its contractors access to and use of 'agreed facilities' for refuelling of aircraft, bunkering of vessels, temporary maintenance of vehicles, vessels and aircraft. In addition, it allows for 'temporary accommodation of personnel, pre-positioning of communications equipment, supplies, fuel and ordinance and materials and deploying forces and materials as the parties may agree'.

One could infer that, in reality, this FPA is enabling the US to set up Australia as its southern base for combat operations in the Asia-Pacific area. One could also be excused for thinking that Australia must be in a state of war, not peace. Yet the last Defence White Paper made the point no less than three times that no military threat to Australia could be identified in the foreseeable future.

Defence Connect, a publication focused on military issues for Australia, stated recently: 'As China has expanded its ballistic missile and long-range strike capabilities, America's traditional "Fortress of the Pacific" — Guam — is now exposed, paving the way for Darwin to emerge as a second US "Fortress of the Pacific".'

A reasonable question would be: For what purpose is this US military build-up in the NT, and is this in the best interests of the Australian people? The recent Talisman Sabre war rehearsal carried out on and off the Queensland coast in the Great Barrier Reef and Stranage Bay provides some answers to this question.

A massive military force of 34,000 troops, 200 planes and 60 naval vessels comprised of US, Australian, Japanese, UK and Canadian forces practised the new US war strategy of Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). This is a tactic involving amphibious landing of troops on islands for seizure and capture as part of a forward projection of sea and airpower aimed at a mainland.