Concerned over rise of China, US to base Marines at Darwin

US President Barack Obama, who is visiting Australia next week, is reported to announce a plan to build a multi-million dollar 'pre-positioning' base at the Robertson Barracks, the Australian base near Darwin.

The US presently has only a limited deployment in the country near Alice Springs.
President Obama, who is expected to visit Australia next week, will make the announcement with Prime Minister Julia Gillard when they visit Darwin next Thursday during his first visit to Australia as President, local media reported.

"This is all about the rise of China, modernisation of the People's Liberation Army and, particularly, it's about the increased vulnerability of US forces in Japan and Guam to the new generation of Chinese missiles," Alan Dupont, the Michael Hintze professor of international security at Sydney University was quoted as saying.

"The new Chinese missiles could threaten them in a way they've never been able to before, so the US is starting to reposition them to make them less vulnerable."
He said that Australia's 'tyranny of distance' was now a distinct strategic advantage.

"The marines will use the Robertson Barracks, the Australian base near Darwin. The base is home to about 4,500 Australian soldiers and may be expanded to accommodate for more. Obama and Gillard are not expected to argue that China is a factor in the decision," the report said.

"This is a strong gesture that even in the face of budget constraints, the US reaction to the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan deployment is not to go home but to pivot into the Asia-Pacific," said Jim Steinberg, former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration.

Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University and a former deputy secretary of defence, said the decision would have deep consequences for Australia's relations with China.

"I think this is a very significant and potentially very risky move for Australia. In the view from Beijing, everything the US is doing in the western Pacific is designed to bolster resistance to the Chinese challenge to US primacy.

"In Washington and in Beijing, this will be seen as Australia aligning itself with an American strategy to contain China," he said.

Obama and Gillard are to say the US will not build a new base for the Marines but will only use the Robertson Barracks, the Australian base near Darwin.

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