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Vol. 75/No. 44      December 5, 2011

US, Australian rulers deepen
military ties, target China
(front page)
SYDNEY, Australia—U.S. President Barack Obama used a visit to Australia November 16-17 to announce a strengthening of military ties between the global imperial power and its longtime key imperialist ally in the southwest Pacific. For the first time since World War II, significant U.S. armed forces will be stationed at Australian military bases in the north and west of the country.

Obama’s visit to Australia was sandwiched between two conferences in Asia where Washington’s participation highlighted the priority it places on bolstering its sway in the region as a counter to China’s rising economic and military influence.

Before Australia, Obama hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Hawaii where further progress was made toward setting up a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that excludes China, the world’s largest exporter. The pact includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.

On November 19, Obama became the first U.S. president to attend the East Asia Summit, a meeting of heads of states from 18 countries. There Obama promoted Washington’s just concluded military pact with Australia. Under the rubric of “maritime security,” he sought to garner support for Washington’s aggressive military moves aimed at China in the Pacific by exploiting disputed claims in the South China Sea between Beijing, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others.

This aggressive military stance underpins, in Obama’s words, Washington’s “indispensable” alliance with the Australian government. The alliance is central to the U.S. imperialists’ refocus toward Asia, which was diverted over the last decade by their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S.-Australia alliance goes back to World War II, through which Washington established its unchallenged dominance of the world’s seas, a hegemony that for the first time is being challenged in the Pacific by Beijing.

At a press conference on his arrival in Canberra, the Australian capital, Obama flanked Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard as the two announced the permanent “rotational deployment” of U.S. Marines near Darwin to begin next year. Darwin, Australia’s northern-most city is just a few hundred miles from Indonesia and some 2,000 miles from Singapore and the Malacca Strait—one of the most important shipping lanes in the world and vital to Pacific trade, which surpassed that of the Atlantic some two decades ago.

Last year Washington signed the Wellington Declaration, formally cementing military ties with the New Zealand government for the first time in decades.

In five years, the Darwin base will accommodate 2,500 troops, “a full Marine Air-Ground Task Force,” said Gillard. The Marines will conduct joint exercises with Australian troops as well as their own live-fire and amphibious training in the tropical north.

Now more U.S. bombers, fighters, refueling aircraft, and spy planes will be based at Royal Australian Air Force bases in the Northern Territory at Darwin and near Katherine. U.S. warships, from aircraft carriers to submarines, will increasingly use an expanded Royal Australian Navy base near Perth, Western Australia, on the Indian Ocean.

An editorial in the People’s Daily, official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, warned “if Australia uses its military bases to help the U.S. harm Chinese interests, then Australia itself will be caught in the crossfire.”

The editorial said Australia’s “economic co-operation with China does not pose any threat to the U.S., whereas the Australia-U.S. military alliance serves to counter China.”

China is now Australia’s largest trading partner because of high iron ore and coal exports to the mainland.

In his speech to a joint sitting of the Australian houses of parliament November 17, Obama praised the alliance between Washington and Canberra “from the trenches of the First World War to the mountains of Afghanistan” and pointed out the deep economic ties between the two nations.

Marty Natalegawa, the foreign minister of neighboring Indonesia, which is among the governments that Washington is deepening its relationship with, voiced concern at the military buildup in northern Australia. H said the plan risked creating a “vicious circle of tensions and mistrust” in the region. The statement reflects concern by a number of area governments over being caught between the intensifying rivalry of the world’s two major powers.

In his Canberra speech, Obama asserted, “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.” He listed U.S. imperialism’s traditional allies, including imperialist Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, as well as those with which it is beginning to establish closer relations, most notably Indonesia and Vietnam.

He welcomed India as it “looks east,” encouraging the capitalist rulers in that populous country to play “a larger role as an Asian power,” as a counterweight to China. India, along with its chief rival Pakistan, represents the western edge of the ring of influence surrounding China that Washington is setting in place.

On the eve of Obama’s visit, Gillard announced that her Labor government would lift its ban on uranium exports to India.
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