The plan to induct US bombers in Australia’s Northern Territory has been welcomed by the region’s chief minister Adam Giles. The NT chief said he “absolutely” supports the presence of bombers and called it “good thing.”
“Absolutely I do (support it), I think the greater level of security we can have in the NT… to protect Australia’s interest and the Territory’s interest, the better,” Giles said.
The US decision to rotate bombers comes in the aftermath of tension in the South China Sea. It also coincides with NT’s leasing of Darwin Port to a Chinese company for a period of 99 years. The lease had raised security concerns both in the US and Australia.
Plans are on to rotate US supersonic long-range B-1B bombers through top end military bases both for training and exercises. This has already raised the hackles of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which said, “any bilateral co-operation must not jeopardise a third party’s interests.”
To the question, if the bombers posed a threat to regional stability, Giles said, Australia and the NT had a responsibility to work with investors from all parts of the world, reports News Corp.
“Our number-one priority is to stand up for territorians, particularly to stand up for jobs. We also stand up for investment coming into the Territory, that’s how the Territory has been built in the past,” he said.
Giles blamed the Labor for fuelling xenophobic fears over the Darwin port deal and said it was a good investment decision with the best partner.
Meanwhile, Pentagon officials justified the United States plan for stationing B-1 and B-52 bombers in Australia in the wake of escalating tensions in the South China Sea.
According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, the US-Australia collaboration represents America’s interest in maintaining stability in the region by counterbalancing China’s military expansion.
“It is part of an overall rebalancing of military forces to the region,” Dr Michael Auslin of the American Enterprise Institute told Monitor.
For Australia, despite the strategic alliance with the US, ties with China are important as the latter is its largest trading partner.
“Australia is not looking to rupture relations with China,” says Auslin, “and it is therefore balancing security concerns with economic opportunities.”
Jennifer Harris, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations said US bombers in Australia would make China more accountable in lowering the tensions. The analyst also noted that China’s slowing economy would influence many other countries in taking a stand against China.
“The Chinese economic slowdown may change some countries calculations of how dependent they are on China and they may be more willing to act,” added Auslin.