Australia could soon be hosting more US marines and warships, with Defence Minister Peter Dutton declaring he wants greater military cooperation with our closest ally.
- The ABC has learnt there is a proposal to form a new joint US marines and ADF training brigade
- If it went ahead, it would be the first of its kind for Australia
- Defence Minister Peter Dutton says Australia’s security depends on closer military ties with the US
Senior officials from both nations are discussing options for expanded military cooperation, which the ABC has learnt include a proposal to form a new joint US marines and ADF training brigade based in Darwin.
If established, the joint brigade would be the first of its kind for Australia and would likely involve a rotating command with the United States.
Concerns over China’s rise are driving a rethink of how the United States can best respond to future threats in the Indo-Pacific, and where to place military assets.
US President Joe Biden has ordered a global force posture review “to ensure the footprint of American service members worldwide is correctly sized and supports strategy”.
In his first major policy speech since taking over the Defence portfolio, Mr Dutton declared Australia’s security depended on closer military ties with its ANZUS ally.
“I think that is in our own security interest, and I think it is in the interest of the US as well,” he said.
“In terms of composition and numbers and what it might look like, I will leave that for another day.
Mr Dutton agreed there was scope to increase the size of the US marine rotational force in the Top End from its pre-COVID level of 2,500, and to base US navy vessels at HMAS Stirling near Perth.
“We’ll have those discussions with the United States, but there’s a clear desire for us to continue to strengthen that program and we’ll look at ways in which we can do that,” he said.
Addressing the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Mr Dutton also said the question of how Australia should navigate its relationship with China was not complicated.
“We have a respectful relationship with China from our own perspective. We are a peaceful nation, we seek to support our neighbours particularly in a time of need, and we have a need for that in response,” he said.
Appearing later at the ASPI conference, acting US ambassador Michael Goldman declined to comment on whether more American marines could soon be heading to Australia.
“We have an AUSMIN (Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations) construct with a force posture review group and I think these things will all be considered in the context of that. I wouldn’t want to get ahead of those,” the charge d ‘affairs said.