War preparations against China are just in time for “threats from the North” election. Can ‘war’ save the Abbott government?
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Australia urged to send military to counter China’s control over sea lanes
Australia should prepare to send military aircraft and ships to the South China Sea to stop China from asserting territorial control across some of the world’s most important trading lanes, says a leading defence planner.
The recommendation by Peter Jennings, who chairs the Abbott government’s advisory panel for drafting the upcoming Defence white paper, followed vehement denials by both Canberra and Washington that the US plans to put long-range bombers in Australia to deter China.
Those denials came in response to a remark by a top Pentagon official David Shear that “we will be placing additional air force assets in Australia as well, including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft”, though the denials from both sides left the door open to an increased military presence in Australian in future.
Mr Jennings’ recommendation, meanwhile, raises the unprecedented prospect of Australian defence personnel facing off against the armed forces of Australia’s largest trading partner.
The usual ‘spin’ comes thus: Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said that “the specifics of the future force posture co-operation are yet to be finalised”.
B-1 bombers coming to Australia to deter Beijing’s South China Sea ambitions: US
The US military plans to station B-1 strategic bombers and surveillance aircraft in Australia as part of efforts to deter Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea, a senior US government official has revealed in comments later downplayed by the Australian government.
During testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, US Defence Department Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear announced that in addition to the movement of US Marine and Army units around the Western Pacific region, “we will be placing additional Air Force assets in Australia as well, including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft.”
US B-52 bombers have previously been temporarily deployed to Darwin, to take part in exercises with the Royal Australian Air Force, in 2012 and in late 2014, as a consequence of a joint Force Posture Initiative agreed by former prime minister Julia Gillard and US President Barack Obama in 2011.
About 1150 US Marines began arriving in Darwin this week for six months training during the Top End’s dry season. The marines are the fourth rotation of US troops deployed to the Northern Territory since 2011. The plan is to gradually increase the number of US Marines rotating through Darwin to 2500 troops by 2017.
Disclosed ahead of any statement by the Australian government, the US plan to deploy B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft to Australia comes as part of the US military’s broader “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region.
Assistant Defence Secretary Shear made it clear on Wednesday that the US intends to challenge China’s claims to sovereignty over large parts of the South China Sea.
Let’s be clear. When you’re the Assistant Defence Secretary of the United States and you’re talking about the world’s only other superpower, you don’t misspeak.
American military officials are drafting options to present to President Barack Obama, including sending warships within 20 kilometres of the reclaimed reefs and rocks to make clear that the US considers them international waters.
An independent foreign policy requires our leaders to take on fear of the US and China
Would we be able to pull back from the client relationship with the US? You can’t be too optimistic about today’s Australian political leaders, because they have no foreign policy framework and seem frightened of big ideas. They don’t even feel able to debate critical policy decisions, such as going back to Iraq with the US.
But it could be done. When Gough Whitlam took on the fear of China by going to Beijing as opposition leader, he also took on the fear of being independent, of offending the US, of daring to see the world through a prism other than that of America, of taking issue with it on foreign policy. He went to Beijing before the US surprised the world with its reversal of China policy. As prime minister, when he publicly condemned the 1972 Christmas bombing of Hanoi, this initially infuriated Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger but, like it or not, in the end America accepted his re-framing of relations. What Whitlam had done was open out the relationship, to one of independence without repudiation of the alliance, and that later became the position of Malcolm Fraser and his two successors, Bob Hawke and Keating.
Many Chinese officials seem to think their country can bully its neighbors even as it gains on a weakening superpower. China asserts its interests aggressively in offshore waters and elsewhere, but Beijing does not want to fight the United States. Beijing’s military spending is rising faster than American, but China’s total outlays are a fraction of U.S. – at most one-fourth of the Pentagon’s. The United States has eleven aircraft carriers; China, one, a retrofit from Ukraine.
See earlier posts: Abbott in globalised war