Officially, the announcement that 2500 US marines would be permanently based in Darwin had nothing to do with China.
Announcing the new military agreement with Australia on November 16, US President Barack Obama said: “I think the notion that we fear China is mistaken. The notion that we are looking to exclude China is mistaken … We welcome a rising, peaceful China.”
Australian defence minister Steven Smith said: “It’s possible for Australia to have an alliance relationship with the US and a comprehensive bilateral relationship with China … this is not a zero sum game.”
The problem is that nobody believes it, least of all the Chinese. Chinese government-owned newspaper People’s Daily said: "Australia surely cannot play China for a fool. It is impossible for China to remain detached, no matter what Australia does to undermine its security."
Further, it said: "If Australia uses its military bases to help the US harm Chinese interests, then Australia itself will be caught in the crossfire."
AFP reported that Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Weiman said: "It may not be quite appropriate to intensify and expand military alliances and may not be in the interest of countries within this region."
Nor was the Indonesian government pleased with the US-Australia military deal. The Sydney Morning Herald reported Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said: "What I would hate to see is if such a development were to provoke a reaction and counter-reaction."
It is quite easy to see why there has been such a reaction. The words and actions of the US government make it clear it is stepping up its military and economic presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Obama said on November 16: “This is a region of huge importance to us. This is right up there at the top of my priority list. We are going to make sure that we are able to fulfill our leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region." Obama also said that US was “here to stay” in the region.
The announcement of permanent US troops in Darwin, which also includes the US Air Force stationing some of its aircraft at Australian bases, came on the same day the US boosted its military alliance with the Philippines.
Associated Press said on November 16: “The United States is helping the Philippines reinforce its weak navy as its longtime Asian ally wrangles with China in increasingly tense territorial disputes.”
The territorial disputes refer to oil-rich and strategically important South China Sea islands. The Philippines is one of six countries claiming sovereignty over all or part of the islands.
Reuters said on November 16 that the South China Sea is a shipping lane “for more than $5 trillion in annual trade that the United States wants to keep open”.
Chinese news agency Xinhua said the US “is also trying to get involved in a number of regional maritime disputes, some of which concern China's sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Obama is to raise the South China Sea issue at the upcoming East Asian summit.
The stepping up of the US troop presence in Australia also comes soon after release of the framework for the Trans-Pacific Pact (TPP). Initiated by the US, the TPP proclaims itself to be “a multilateral free trade agreement”, which includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam. Canada, Japan and Mexico are likely to join.
Obama said in his November 17 address to the Australian parliament that the TPP was “our most ambitious trade agreement yet”.
The November 17 Australian said Obama “wanted China to be involved in the TPP but that, like all TPP members, it would have to ‘rethink some of its approaches to trade’ if it wanted to join”.
At his press conference with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Obama sent a stark warning to China. He said: “We will send a clear message to them that we think they may need to be on track, in terms of accepting the rules and responsibilities of being a world power.”
It is clear the US will block China’s involvement in the TPP if it does not accept US hegemony in the Asia Pacific and plays by its rules.
Obama made this clear in his address to the Australian parliament: “Our enduring interests in the region requires our enduring presence in the region.”
Any country that threatens those interests in any way, like China, can expect to be threatened both militarily or otherwise under the Obama doctrine.
Despite all the mainstream media talk about his visit being a re-affirmation of the US-Australia alliance, in reality it is about re-affirming Australia as an outpost to serve the US’s interests in the Asia Pacific.
The Gillard government has signed up to the US’s agenda of permanent war and permanent militarisation — making all people in the region much less safe than before.