ASIA-PACIFIC: First Contingent of U.S. Marines Lands in Australia
U.S. Marines have begun arriving in Australia in the first six-month rotation as part of a cooperation agreement between the two countries. But the pact has raised concerns with China and at least one other country in the region.
About 200 members of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment arrived Tuesday (April 3) in the northern city of Darwin. They are the first contingent of 2,500 Marines expected to be deployed in Australia by 2017. It’s all part of an agreement signed by President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard when Obama was Down Under in November, the New York Times reported. At that time, Beijing criticized the move as a figment of “Cold War mentality” that would destabilize the region.
The Marines will be there largely to train with the Australian Defence Force – particularly in amphibious warfare operations, which the Marines see as one of their primary skills – and a primary reason for continued funding in hard budgetary times. The Third Marines are based in Hawaii.
The agreement between the U.S. and Australia also calls for greater access to Royal Australian Air Force bases for U.S. aircraft and eventually more visits by U.S. Navy vessels to the western Australian naval base outside Perth. The Marines, who will be stationed at Robertson Barracks outside Darwin, will also be better positioned to respond to natural disasters in Southeast Asia and provide humanitarian assistance, U.S. officials told the Voice of America. There will be no U.S. base in Australia, officials said.
Australia has been a close U.S. ally since World War II. Australia sent troops to the Korean and Vietnam wars and Australia has been one of the largest non-NATO contributors of military personnel in Afghanistan. Last year, for the fourth time, the U.S. and Australian militaries conducted a biennial training exercise, Talisman Sabre in northern Australia and adjoining waters. Fourteen thousand U.S. and 9,000 Australian troops participated in the exercise last July.
Under the November agreement, the U.S. troops will be rotated in an out of Australia but not permanently based there. The deployment is part of the Obama administration’s strategy shift focusing on the Asia Pacific region after more than 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. has also reached an agreement with the island nation of Singapore to base two of the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) there. Singapore has been a key player in the efforts to halt piracy in the area near the Malacca Strait, a major maritime choke point through which much of the world’s oil is shipped. Australia is also negotiating with Washington about allowing U.S. unmanned aircraft to fly surveillance missions out of the Cocos Islands, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean about 1,700 miles/2,750 kilometers from Perth.
The Philippines is also in negotiations with the U.S. to allow a large U.S. troop presence in the former American colony, which evicted U.S. forces from a large air base and naval station there in the 1990s. Filipino law bars U.S. troops from fighting on Philippines oil although there are U.S. military advisers providing medical, veterinary and educational assistance as well as instruction in counter insurgency tactics. But like many of its neighbors, the Philippines has had territorial – and sometimes physical – confrontations with the China, which claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea.
In addition to alarming China, the Marine deployment and the other military moves in Asia raised concerns in Indonesia, according the Australian Boadcasting Corp.
Entry filed under: Asia-Pacific, International Relief, National Security and Defense, Skills and Training. Tags: amphibious warfare, Australia, Australian Defence Forces, China, Defense, Disaster Relief, Marine Corps, Philippines, pirates, Singapore, South China Sea.