US Marines To Be Deployed In Australia
November 19, 2011
It seems a broad American strategic shift to the Pacific Ocean and its peripheral countries is now underway. Earlier this week, President Barack Obama announced the gradual deployment of US Marines in Australia. The first contingent arrives next year and, considering the numbers involved, is rather minimal. According to Obama, an initial batch of 250 Marines are scheduled to arrive in Darwin and in five years the number will grow to 2,500.
The limited Marine deployment is part of a concerted US strategy to reestablish its presence in the Asia-Pacific. This was outlined at a press conference after the US President met with Prime Minister Julia Gillard during the former’s first state visit to Australia. The official reaction from China came via a foreign ministry spokesman, whose conveyed a trite and measured response. The Marine deployment’s exact purpose wasn’t mentioned, but the flood of news reports hinted at an expansion of US military assets in Australia.
The bigger picture suggests the US is re-balancing its forces across the region in a series of moves that would secure shipping lanes and potential resource rich areas from China. With US forces exiting its Middle Eastern theaters, South and Southeast Asia as well as the Pacific Ocean is expected to become the new geopolitical hot spot for this decade. If this Australian side show is a harbinger of future conflict, then the ensuing crises should be worth anticipated for the high scale geopolitical intrigue.
This expansion comes at a time when China’s muscle flexing towards its neighbors is more brazen than ever. If its growing military presence along its frontier with India is taken into consideration, China expects to be grappling with its neighbors and regional powers for strategic superiority in the foreseeable future.
China is also calculating its moves to advantageously conclude a territorial dispute in the South China Sea that has strained relations with several other countries. Among the aggrieved parties are the Philippines, whose leader recently met Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton.