Australia Says More US Troops to Come, Work on Missile Development After Nuclear Sub Deal
TEHRAN (FNA)- Australia said on Thursday that more US troops will rotate through the island nation and that the allies will cooperate on missile development, the latest joint steps amid shared concerns over a rising China.
Australia announced a three-way alliance with the United States and Britain in which Canberra will
acquire nuclear-powered submarines , enraging France whose own major contract for conventional submarines was scrapped, China Morning Post reported.
Outlining further measures on a visit to Washington, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said Australia will be “significantly enhancing” cooperation including working together on the development of missiles and explosive ordnance.
He said Australia was willing to see more US Marines in a decade-old rotation through the Northern city of Darwin.
“I do have an aspiration to make sure that we can increase the numbers of troops through the rotations,” Dutton said.
“The air capability will be enhanced, our maritime capability enhanced and certainly the force posture enhanced,” Dutton added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier had said that Australia would acquire long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, also without giving numbers, confirmed that the United States “will expand our access and presence in Australia”.
Austin said the two allies discussed concerns about China in the four-way meeting involving Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
“While we seek a constructive, results-oriented relationship with the PRC, we will remain clear-eyed in our view of Beijing’s efforts to undermine the established international order,” Austin said.
China has voiced anger over the nuclear submarine deal which comes as Australia faces growing commercial and diplomatic pressure from the Asian power, a major destination for its food and energy exports.
“Beijing has seen over the past months that Australia will not back down and the 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 pitch,” he said, using sporting metaphors.
China has its own “very substantive programme of nuclear submarine building”, Morrison said on Friday in an interview with radio station 2GB.
“They have every right to take decisions in their national interests for their defence arrangements and of course so does Australia and all other countries,” he said.
In a series of media interviews, the Australian leader said his government was reacting to changing dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region where territory is increasingly contested and competition is rising.
Australia is “very aware” of China’s nuclear submarine capabilities and growing military investment, he told Channel Seven television.
“We are interested in ensuring that international waters are always international waters and international skies are international skies, and that the rule of law applies equally in all of these places,” he said.
Morrison said the new defence alliance, announced after more than 18 months of discussions with the US and Britain, will be permanent.
“It involves a very significant commitment not just today but forever. That is why I refer to it as the forever partnership. It is one that will see Australia kept secure and safe into the future,” he said.
Around 2,200 US Marines were expected to come through Darwin in the 2021 rotation, with restrictions in place due to Covid-19 and Australia’s strict quarantine measures.
President Joe Biden has cited the need to focus on China as he controversially withdrew the final US troops from Afghanistan last month.
In another sign to China, Morrison will head to Washington next week for a first in-person four-way summit with Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Dutton also pointed to Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea as partners for Australia in the region.
“They understand the values that we adhere to and that we’ve been consistently adhered to for a long period of time,” he said.
In a statement on Friday, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry noted with caution Australia’s decision to acquire the submarines and said it was “deeply concerned over the continuing arms race and power projection in the region”.
The foreign ministry called on Australia to maintain its commitment to regional peace and stability, and reiterated its respect for international law.