Approximately 2,200 US Marines are scheduled to pass through Darwin in the 2021 rotation, as Canberra also envisions improved air and maritime capability.
Australia has announced that more US troops will rotate through the island nation and that allies will cooperate on missile development, the latest joint steps amid shared concerns about China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Australia previously announced a tripartite alliance with the United States and Britain in which Canberra will acquire nuclear-powered submarines, infuriating France, whose key contract for conventional submarines was canceled.
Describing other measures on a visit to Washington, Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Thursday that Australia will “significantly enhance” cooperation, including joint work on the development of missiles and explosive devices.
He said Australia was keen to see more US Marines on a 10-year rotation through the northern city of Darwin.
“I have an aspiration to make sure that we can increase the number of troops through rotations,” Dutton said.
“Air capability will be improved, our maritime capability will be improved and certainly the posture of the force will be improved.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had previously said that Australia would acquire long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, also without giving figures, confirmed that the United States “will expand our access and presence in Australia.”
Austin said the two allies discussed concerns about China at the four-way meeting that involved Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
“As we pursue a constructive and results-oriented relationship with the People’s Republic of China, we will maintain our clear vision of Beijing’s efforts to undermine the established international order,” Austin said.
Anger in Beijing
China has expressed anger over the nuclear submarine deal, which comes as Australia faces mounting trade and diplomatic pressure from the Asian power, a main destination for its food and energy exports.
“Beijing has seen in recent months that Australia will not back down and that threats of economic retaliation and pressure simply will not work,” Blinken said.
“The United States will not leave Australia alone on the field or, better yet, on the field,” he said, using sports metaphors.
Roughly 2,200 US Marines were scheduled to pass through Darwin in the 2021 rotation, with restrictions due to COVID-19 and Australia’s strict quarantine measures.
President Joe Biden has cited the need to focus on China when he controversially withdrew the last of US troops from Afghanistan last month.
In another signal for China, Morrison will head to Washington next week for a first four-way summit in person with Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Dutton also singled out Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea as Australia’s partners in the region.
“They understand the values that we adhere to and have consistently adhered to over a long period of time,” he said.