AUSTRALIA started secret planning for a new port that could counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific – by inviting US marines to use it.
Anonymous Australian government officials confirmed that the development would act as a military base for the US as well as a commercial port. Located 40 kilometres north-east of Darwin’s existing port, it has been earmarked by the government for years due to its deep waters. The move is likely to put China on high alert as President Xi Jinping looks to expand Beijing’s influence in the region.
The port will be able to accommodate US marines for various military activities in nearby waters.
Though the Darwin port already houses military facilities and hosts US ships on occasion, the new development will ensure larger amphibious warships can operate in a more discrete base.
Experts believe that more than 2,000 US marines could use the new deep-water port – a significant worry for Beijing.
Professor Rory Medcalf of the Australian National University said: “The Americans are clearly not withdrawing from the Indo-Pacific, whether it’s because of their strategic competition with China or more generally.
Australian warships have tried to counter Chinese expansions
“It’s clear the Americans intend to stay in the region to reinforce their presence, to reinforce the alliance, and so a facility like this would be quite a logical development I think.”
The move is set to counter China’s assumed control of the South China Sea – Beijing has been flexing its military muscle in the region in recent years.
A senior Commonwealth official told ABC: “I’d be surprised if the Chinese don’t already know about it, but they can’t complain because they’re building similar ports in this region.”
WIth outposts positioned on various islands, China has asserted that it should control more than 80 percent of the South China Sea.