The recent arrival of a company of Hawaii-based Marines in Darwin, Australia, stirred up some unfavorable sentiments on the continent and around the region. Now comes former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who apparently is quite unhappy about seeing any more Marines Down Under.
Fraser, who led the nation-continent for eight years until 1983, complained that “over 20 years now we have given the impression of doing that which America wants. We seem to believe that our security can be best assured if we do what we can to win brownie points with the U.S. This is a mistaken assumption.”
He reportedly outlined his frustrations in a letter to his government blasting the new Aussie-U.S. arrangement for unit rotations, the Sydney Morning Herald reported April 24. Those rotations and recent news that the United States wants to operate military drones from Cocos Island, a group of atolls west of Australia, will fuel more unsettlement about U.S. intentions, particularly as it concerns threats from China, and further risk Australia’s own security, he argued in a letter submitted to the government’s “White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century.” Such level of U.S. involvement “sends the wrong message, not only to China, but to countries like Indonesia.”
The rotations, which will send 2,500 leathernecks in six-month rotations to Darwin by 2016, are part of the broader U.S.”pivot” refocusing on all things in the Asia-Pacific region. Top U.S.military officials have said no new permanent bases are planned in the Pacific region, where they already are looking at a reposturing of military forces. But Fraser doesn’t buy it. “For America to say that 2,500 troops do not constitute a base is nonsense, indeed a fabrication,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the men of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, landed in the Northern Territory or the “Top End” as it’s known locally earlier this month to start training with their Australian counterparts at military ranges in the area as military commanders with III Marine Expeditionary Force met with local leaders. Top-level visits to the region include Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and members of Australia’s parliament met with Marines and sailors aboard dock landing ship Pearl Harbor, currently deployed with 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group.