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Vol. 77/No. 21      June 3, 2013

Australian, US military deepen
ties aimed at countering China
SYDNEY — The release of a “Defence White Paper” May 3 outlines the Australian government’s deepening collaboration with Washington in a strategic “rebalancing” towards the Asia-Pacific region. Despite diplomatic language about “encouraging China’s peaceful rise,” the steps it lays out are aimed at countering the ascendant economic and military power of Beijing.

At the same time, the document announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard softens the tone towards Beijing, compared to the previous 2009 white paper. Canberra’s alliance with U.S. imperialism and its rivalry with Beijing is constantly tempered by the fact that China is Australia’s biggest trading partner.

Last month a second detachment of more than 200 U.S. Marines arrived at an Australian army base near Darwin in the Northern Territory for a six-month training stint. Washington and Canberra plan to increase the size of these rotating marine forces to 2,500 in a few years.

The paper confirms that U.S. aircraft, including B-52 strategic bombers and other long-range warplanes, will increasingly make use of Royal Australian Air Force bases in Darwin and elsewhere in the north.

Plans are underway to build three new destroyers. Already under construction are two amphibious assault ships that are both troop transports and helicopter carriers. These will be the largest ships ever in the Australian navy.

A key part of Canberra’s projections is the building of 12 new long-range submarines with guided-missile capabilities. Building a new fleet of patrol boats has been brought forward to police the borders against asylum seekers.

Among Canberra’s alliances with semicolonial governments, the white paper singled out the importance of its military relationship with Indonesia as key to protecting profitable trade routes through the archipelago to Australia’s north.

Australian forces have also stepped up cooperation with the Japanese military as Tokyo confronts China over disputed islands in the East China Sea and amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. On May 6, an Australian-guided missile frigate, HMAS Sydney, arrived in Japan to join the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The warship is to be “embedded” with the USS George Washington carrier strike group operating out of Japan’s Yokosuka base, just south of Tokyo.  
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