The United States is in talks with Australia in housing long-range heavy bombers in the country, an issue that might ignite tensions with China, according to reports.

Commander of US Pacific Air Forces General Lori Robinson told ABC on Wednesday that the US was indeed in talks with Australia in basing B-1 bombers and aerial tankers in the Northern Territory, a move that came following the growing possibility of China’s military expansion in the Asia-Pacific region. According to Reuters, this would fuel the fire already surrounding China and the US on the disputed South China Sea, majority of which is claimed by the former. Other countries that have overlapping claims over the South China Sea are Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

“We’re in the process of talking about rotational forces, bombers and tankers out of Australia (Tindal and Darwin) and it gives us the opportunity to train with Australia,” Robinson told reporters in Canberra. “It gives us the opportunity to strengthen the ties we already have with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and it gives the opportunity to train our pilots to understand the theatre and how important it is to strengthen our ties with our great allies, the RAAF,” she said.

The US Navy’s attempt to exercise freedom of navigation and sailing near the islands of the disputed sea have increased the level of tension between the two countries. According to Ejinsight, the reports that indicated China’s deployment of advanced missiles, radar technology in the disputed islands have made Washington and Beijing to receive trade allegations relating to militarising the region.

Robinson claimed that the US will not stop conducting various water exercises. She encouraged Australia as well to participate in similar freedom of navigation exercises on the South China Sea. “We would encourage anybody in the region and around the world to fly and sail in international air space in accordance with international rules and norms,” Robinson said. “We would encourage all nations in the region to do just that, just as the United States is doing.”