Australia agrees to increased US air deployments

Greater military cooperation announced day after sub deal that was slammed by China

WASHINGTON • Australia and the United States announced expanded military cooperation on Thursday, including rotational deployments of all types of US military aircraft to Australia, a day after announcing a submarine deal denounced by China as intensifying a regional arms race.

Speaking after meetings between the US and Australian foreign and defence ministers, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the two sides would be "significantly enhancing our force posture cooperation, increasing interoperability and deepening alliance activities in the Indo-Pacific".

"This will include greater air cooperation through rotational deployments of all types of US military aircraft to Australia," Mr Dutton told a joint news conference in Washington.

"We've also established combined logistics sustainment and capability for maintenance to support our enhanced activities, including logistics and sustainment capability for our submarines and surface combatants in Australia."

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said the meeting had endorsed "major force-posture initiatives that will expand our access and presence in Australia".

On Wednesday, the US and Britain said they would provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

The US and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China's growing power and influence, particularly its military build-up, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.

China, in denouncing the new pact with Australia, said such partnerships should not target third countries.

The US, Britain and Australia were "severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

The Chinese embassy in Australia yesterday rejected "unfounded accusations" against China made by the defence and foreign ministers of Australia and their US counterparts after the talks in Washington.

The two countries had expressed concern over China's "expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea that are without legal basis", and stated their intention to strengthen ties with their "critical partner" Taiwan.

Australia and the US also criticised China's imposition of national security legislation in Hong Kong last year that they said had weakened its electoral system, suppressed media freedom and undermined the former British colony's "one country, two systems" formula, agreed to when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

They also expressed "grave concerns" about China's "campaign of repression against Uighurs", a mostly Muslim ethnic minority in western China's Xinjiang region.

The Chinese embassy dismissed their accusations as a futile pressure tactic.

"This petty move to put pressure on China will be of no avail but a staged farce," a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Canberra said in a statement.

"We firmly oppose and reject the unfounded accusations and erroneous remarks against China on issues related to the South China Sea, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other China-related issues."

Meanwhile, the White House defended the US decision to provide Australia with advanced technology for nuclear-powered submarines.

White House spokesman Jen Psaki said the agreement was not aimed at China, although the US has mounting concerns about Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific and regional analysts said the deal is clearly a response to Beijing's growing strength.

"We do not seek conflict with China," Ms Psaki told reporters.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2021, with the headline 'Australia agrees to increased US air deployments'. Subscribe