Australia rules out US Marine base in Darwin, but flags increased military cooperation


Australian Defense Force soldiers line Robertson Barracks grounds during a parade to farewell 450 Australian troops before their deployment to Iraq May 10, 2007 in Darwin, Australia.


Terry Trewin

The Australian government has ruled out the establishment of a US Marine Corps base in Australia, news of which earlier in the day sparked widespread discussion of a counterweight to China's rise in the region.

Reports on Friday morning suggested that President Barack Obama would use a visit Down Under next week to announce the establishment of a new, permanent presence in Darwin, in the country's far north.

(GlobalPost reports: Barack Obama may use Australia trip to announce new US base Down Under)

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the move — including a rotation of Marines through the Robertson Barracks, which already houses about 4,500 Australian soldiers — indicated "heightened concern about China."

However, short of reaffirming "plans to step up joint training and military exercises with the US," the government had "ruled out" a new permanent base, the SMH reported late Friday afternoon.

The paper quoted Defense Minister Stephen Smith as saying Obama would announce an increased rotation of US forces through Darwin, geographically adjacent to Asia, "as part of a planned permanent new military presence."

"There are no United States bases in Australia and no proposal for such bases," Smith said.

John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, told Down Under on Friday that the US was "slowly but steadily strengthening its alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, because of fear of China's rise."

"Most of China's neighbors are also worried about the implications of a powerful China, and that is causing them to look to Washington for help," he said in an email.

"Of course, all of these moves appear threatening to China, which will cause Beijing to increase the size of its military, which, in turn, will scare China's neighbors and America, and cause them to further strengthen their militaries so they can contain China.

"This is the classic security dilemma at play, and it is likely to lead to trouble."