Australia Strengthens Military Ties With U.S. Amid Broader Defense Debate

Australia Strengthens Military Ties With U.S.  Amid Broader Defense Debate

This week’s high-level U.S.-Australia defense and security consultations, which saw U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and their Australian counterparts, Bob Carr and Stephen Smith, meet in Perth Wednesday and Thursday, took place against the backdrop of domestic debate in Australia over defense procurement and the primacy of the Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) alliance in Australia's strategic calculus.

In a November 2011 visit to Australia, U.S. President Barack Obama announced increased military cooperation between the two nations as part of the United States’ wider repositioning in Asia. The Australian government is unwavering in its commitment to the U.S. alliance, and public support for ANZUS is strong. But the tightening of military ties has caused some consternation among former Australian prime ministers, senior diplomats and business leaders, who worry that involvement in a perceived containment policy against China will adversely affect Australia’s relationship with its largest trading partner.

At the annual Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) meeting, the two sides confirmed that 250 more U.S. Marines will be rotated through Darwin, Australia, next year, with the number scheduled to increase to 2,500 in five to six years. They also announced the placement of a space surveillance telescope in Western Australia and the relocation of a C-band radar from New Mexico to the North West Cape, also in Western Australia. Further talks were proposed on the potential for enhanced U.S. aviation access through two Northern Territory Australian air force bases and greater U.S. access to a naval base in Western Australia on the Indian Ocean.

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