The Pentagon is to deploy a record number of US Marines to train in Australia, Australian Minister for Defence Marise Payne said yesterday, as Washington seeks to counter what it describes as Chinese aggression in the region.
A total of 1,587 marines are to spend six months training in Australia’s remote north, she said, an increase of nearly 27 percent from the US Marine Corps’ rotation last year for the program known as the Force Posture Initiatives.
“The US military plays a vital role in underwriting security and stability across the Indo-Pacific, and the Force Posture Initiatives will be an essential component in preserving stability and security over the coming decades,” Payne said in a statement.
The deployment, first introduced in 2011 as part of a US “pivot” to Asia, has emerged as a key indicator of Washington’s commitment to the region under US President Donald Trump and his willingness to counter Chinese influence in a region where tensions have spiked amid disputes over the South China Sea.
China claims most of the South China Sea, an important trade route that is also believed to contain large quantities of oil and natural gas, and has been building artificial islands on reefs, some with ports and air strips.
Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines have competing claims for all or parts of the South China Sea.
In a move likely to irk Beijing, the marines are to train with personnel from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
“China will monitor whatever the US does and it would prefer that the United States not work with the Asian countries included in these exercises,” said Euan Graham, director of the international security program at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute.
“Beijing would like to deal one-on-one with Southeast Asia nations that have counter claims,” he said.
The marines are also to transport additional military equipment, including helicopters and F/A-18 jets, Payne said.
The deployment also threatens to further weaken Australia-China relations.
Australia, a staunch US ally with no claim to the South China Sea, has long maintained its neutrality in the dispute to protect its economic relationship with China.
However, bilateral relations have soured over the past few months after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said China was improperly interfering in Canberra’s affairs, which triggered a rare protest from Beijing.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete