US Navy to increase Australia port visits,
in message to China
Australia will receive
more port visits from United States Navy ships following the Trump
administration’s decision to re-establish the nation‘s 1st Fleet as an
expeditionary force in the Indo-Pacific.
Analysts said the
announcement, which effectively “locks in” an incoming Biden administration,
will send a message to China that “they aren’t going to have it all their own
way” in the region.
US Navy Secretary Kenneth
Braithwaite said the fleet, which was disbanded in 1973, would be re-raised to
patrol the waters of Southeast Asia, the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
While Singapore was
previously discussed as a potential home for the fleet, Mr Braithwaite revealed
it would be “an agile, mobile, at-sea command”.
The fleet will report to
US Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii and include the Straits of Malacca – which a
quarter of the world’s oil passes through – in its area of operations.
The head of the ANU’s
Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Brendan Sargeant, said the fleet would be
a check on Chinese expansion and coercion in the region.
“It will strengthen the
American presence in the region and in that sense, be a force for stability,”
Professor Sargeant told The Australian.
“It will send a big
message to China that they aren’t going to have it all their own way.”
He said the announcement
was a response to China and its “increasingly expansionist and assertive
“It’s also an attempt to
give expression to rhetoric coming out of Washington that the Indo-Pacific is
important, and that they’re not leaving,” Professor Sargeant said.
He said the incoming
Biden government would be unable to reverse the Trump administration’s
announcement without creating an impression the US did not care about the
Scott Morrison said the
move reflected a “universal view” in American politics of the importance of the
“They have been here for
a long time and their presence is welcomed not just by Australia but (by) the
many countries of our region,” the Prime Minister said.
“I would expect to
continue in the same way it always has, regardless of the administration.”
told the US Senate‘s Armed Services Committee the government was determined to
make the “bold changes” required to ensure US forces would “dominate any
potential battlespace and return home safely”.
“In order to improve our
posture in the Indo-Pacific we will reconstitute the 1st Fleet, assigning it
primary responsibility for the Indo and South Asian region as an expeditionary
fleet,” Mr Braithwaite told the US Senate’s Armed Services Committee.
“This will reassure our
partners and allies of our presence and commitment to this region while
ensuring any potential adversary knows we are committed to global presence, to
ensure rule of law and freedom of the seas.”