US to increase rotational military presence in Australia, invite Japan amid tensions with China

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin escorts Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles into the Pentagon for their meeting in Washington, US, December 5, 2022. (Via Reuters)

The US is set to further strengthen its military presence in South East Asia, with the Pentagon chief saying the country will boost the rotational presence of its of air, land and sea forces in Australia amid growing tensions with China.

Lloyd Austin announced on Tuesday after annual talks between the two allies.

"What we've agreed to do is to increase rotations of air, land and sea forces, these are rotational forces obviously, to Australia," he said without providing details on when there would be an increase in the rotations or how many troops, ships and aircraft it would involve.

The United States is planning to deploy up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to an air base in northern Australia amid heightened tensions with China.

Thousands of US Marines rotate through Australia's Northern Territory annually for training
and joint military exercises.

The US sees Australia as a vital partner in its efforts to push back against China in the Indo-Pacific as analysts say Canberra could have a crucial logistical role to play in the defense of Taiwan against any move by Beijing to reclaim the strategic island.

Austin added that the two countries also agreed to "invite Japan to integrate into our force posture initiatives in Australia."

Last year, the United States, Britain and Australia created a so-called security deal, known as AUKUS, that will provide Australia with the technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines. The deal has riled China, with Beijing making a diplomatic push to criticize and "subvert" AUKUS.

Canberra has said the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that Australia is party to does not prohibit nuclear propulsion.

China is Australia's largest trading partner, but Canberra has grown concerned about “Beijing's military ambitions” in the South Pacific after it struck a security pact with the Solomon Islands this year.

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