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U.S. Bombers in Australia

U.S. Bombers in Australia

The U.S. and Australia are now collaborating in order to stabilize the South China Sea in the face of China’s increased military presence in the region.

U.S. Bolstering Military Presence in Australia

BY JUANI HOPWOOD

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, speaks as Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop listens during their joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on Wednesday. (Credit: Wu Hong/AP)

The United States is considering stationing B-1 and B-2 bombers in Australia—in addition to the aircraft carrier, a cruiser and two destroyers routinely patrolling the South China Sea—as part of its diplomatic and military response to rising tensions in the region, the Pentagon said. The bombers would rotate through two existing northern bases, Tindal and Darwin. The carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, arrived in the South China Sea on Tuesday; cruiser USS Mobile Bay and destroyers USS Stockdale and USS Chung-Hoon, arrived in the Western Pacific on February 4, said Navy Cmdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

China has expanded its military presence to islands in the South China Sea and has announced plans to construct air strips and air-to-ground missile batteries. China deployed missiles on Woody Island, one of the Paracels Islands (a chain to which both Taiwan and Vietnam have laid claim), in February. The U.S. and Australia are now collaborating in order to stabilize the region in the face of China’s increased military presence in the region.

Note: Doesn't include claims by Brunei. The Philippines has not recently challenged China or Taiwan over the Macclesfield Bank. (Credit: Stephanie d'Otreppe/NPR)

Note: Doesn’t include claims by Brunei. The Philippines has not recently challenged China or Taiwan over the Macclesfield Bank. (Credit: Stephanie d’Otreppe/NPR)

“Australia is not looking to rupture relations with China and it is therefore balancing security concerns with economic opportunities,” said Dr. Michael Auslin of the American Enterprise Institute in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor. China is Australia’s most important trade partner; approximately $5.3 billion in trade passes through the South China Sea, including about 60 percent of Australia’s trade. The U.S. also benefits from much of that trade.

“We operate in a region where sea lanes, freedom of access to navigation, where maritime assets in a naval sense are growing, both submarine and surface vessels,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, explaining the nation’s 10-year military expansion plan in February.

Juani Hopwood is ABQ Free Press online editor. Reach her at juani@freeabq.com.

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Juani Hopwood is Online Editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach her at juani@freeabq.com.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.