Aussie controversy over US Marine-basing report

Not everyone in Australia is pleased with reports that U.S. Marines will be forward-deployed there.

We’ve been hearing rumblings about this for months and years, and now it sounds like it’s about to happen: President Obama may use his upcoming trip to Australia to announce the U.S. will forward-deploy numbers of Marines and their equipment to the northern city of Darwin.

The initial Australian press reports aren’t clear about how many Marines would be involved, but a story in the Sydney Morning Herald does say the existing Australian-built barracks already there will need to be expanded.

Although Canberra clearly already has signed onto this deal, indicating there’s support for an expanded American military presence Down Under, not everyone is on board. Per the Morning Herald’s Phillip Coorey:

The expanded American military presence in Australia – to be formally announced next week by the US President, Barack Obama – will result in vastly more US ships, planes and soldiers visiting and being stationed in the nation’s north, the government says.

As the government all but confirmed yesterday’s Herald report that US Marines and materiel would be shifted to Darwin, the Greens said the move would annoy Australia’s neighbours, including China, and make the nation a bigger military target.

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, said he would make his concerns known to Mr Obama next week in the unlikely event he was granted a meeting with him. Otherwise Senator Brown planned to ring the US embassy to complain.

The move makes strategic sense both from America’s and Australia’s perspective, but Brown has a point, too — just imagine how provocative this might appear if you were viewing it from Beijing. You might consider it a reason to make a counter-move of your own, and then it’s off to the races — although we’re obviously already well along in the new 21st century game of “Risk” in the Western Pacific.