Joe Dunford, Marine Corps General and The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is looking to ship more US Marines to the American Military’s key base in Australia. It has been reported that the General came up with the plan after discussions with Malcolm Turnbull regarding a show of force in the region.
The US will be boosting its operations at Darwin on a ramped-up schedule, communicating its commitment to the region as a response to concerns over China’s rise in power. The discussion between Turnbull and Dunford took place at the Pentagon later last week during the Australian leader’s visit to the US capital.
A sensitive issue
The deployment of the US forces to Australia has been a very sensitive matter ever since former Australian PM, Julia Gillard, agreed to it in 2011. In fact, the issue is responsible for former President Obama’s sudden changeover to Asia during his tenure.
At the time, the Chinese Foreign Ministry immediately responded by raising questions as to whether such a move was in the best interest of the nations that occupy the same region.
The size of the force at the base is managed via rotation from other American bases nearby. Though the number was supposed to reach 2500, it has mainly settled at 1,250 so far.
Now, General Dunford has made it clear he wants to meet the established figure of 2500 as soon as possible, which is why he has called for accelerated deployment.
Turnbull rubbishes “China a Threat” idea
This week, PM Turnbull spoke out against the idea of China being a threat. Instead, he stated that the country’s rise is an opportunity for Australia to build better relations.
However, his comments are a stark contrast to the US’s stance on China. Jim Mattis, the US Defense Secretary, warned about Russia and China being a threat to the US, which is said to have shaped the general perception of China now held by those in Washington.
The plan to increase deployment to Darwin has been in the works for a while. Dunford had even taken part in a tour of the region at the beginning of the month. In his address to the Marines at Darwin, he mentioned that their presence sent a strong message to friends and foes in the region.
Turnbull’s meeting with Dunford is said to have lasted an hour and mostly involved discussions regarding fighting terrorism in the Middle East and developing more effective defense strategies.