Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Tuesday that the US will increase its military presence in Australia in a buildup aimed at China.
In a joint press conference with Australia’s defense minister and foreign minister, Austin said that the US will increase its rotational forces in Australia. “That includes rotations of bomber task forces, fighters, and future rotations of US Navy and US Army capabilities,” Austin said.
Details on the rotational deployments aren’t clear, but they will likely focus on the Australian city of Darwin in the Northern Territory, where US Marines have been rotating through for years.
Australia’s ABC News reported in October that the US will be deploying six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to Australia to a base just south of Darwin. The US is building facilities to house the bombers, which are expected to be completed by 2026.
The US and Australia have been stepping up military cooperation since signing the AUKUS pact with the UK in 2021, a part of the US effort to build alliances against China. The deal focuses on technology sharing and will give Canberra the capability to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
While announcing the additional deployments, Austin accused China of “dangerous” actions in the region. “China’s dangerous and coercive actions throughout the Indo-Pacific, including around Taiwan, and toward the Pacific Island countries and in the East and South China Seas threaten regional peace and stability,” Austin said.
Many countries in the region are not eager to get on board with the US’s confrontational approach to China. The prime minister of Papua New Guinea said this week that his country can’t afford to get caught between the US and China and said he told the US your “enemy is not my enemy.”
Indonesia’s president expressed similar concerns during a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in November, saying the ASEAN must not let the region turn into a frontline for a new Cold War.