Granting territory of the fifth continent for use in the interests of the U.S. Armed Forces is one of the directions of Australia's military cooperation with the United States. Descendants from the same Anglo-Saxon roots, Australia and the United States share many cultural and ideological identities. Both have large immigrant populations from diverse origins, as well as indigenous populations which retain vibrant cultures. Australia has long remained a key US ally in the Asia-Pacific region.
Australia began to look to America as a defense partner in the early 20th Century, when both shared a common concern about rising Japanese power. When the Japanese scored their initial successes in the Far East, the naval forces of the Allied powers retreated, fighting, through the Netherlands East Indies until they had fallen back to Australia. Refugee units and personnel from our Asiatic fleet began to arrive at northern and western Australian ports within a few weeks of the opening of the war.
The major concern was the development of facilities in Australia which would permit that island continent to serve as a secure base to support naval and military counter-offensives against the enemy. Within six months soon after Pearl Harbor, US Army combat elements in Australia consisted of two National Guard divisions, a few assorted antiaircraft and warning batteries, engineer regiments, and a small number of Army Air Forces pursuit and bombing squadrons. the conduct of combat conditions in the Southwest Pacific Area was strikingly different from that in other theaters. The bases in Australia were far apart, as were those in New Guinea. For a long time, the number of troops engaged was comparatively small. Within two years, the air forces had grown markedly, the Sixth US Army had been organized, and the Eighth US Army was being activated. In the beginning, an invasion of Australia by the enemy was assumed to be a real possibility, which fortunately did not eventuate. Gradually, the Allies established a foothold in New Guinea, and when the Japanese attacks on Milne Bay and over the Owen-Stanley Mountains toward Port Moresby had been repulsed late in 1942, the ground and air forces began the long tough road that led eventually to the Philippines.
The Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) security treaty of 1951 bound the signatories to recognize that an armed attack in the Pacific area against any of them would endanger the peace and safety of the others. It committed them to consult in the event of a threat and, in the event of attack, to meet the common danger in accordance with their respective constitutional processes. The three nations also pledged to maintain and develop individual and collective capabilities to resist attack.
In the 1970s the US was seriously concerned with the fate of the American military bases in this region. Moreover, the Laborist government of Australia headed by E. Whitlam demanded to establish its own control over the operation of the top secret American bases in Australia. At the end of 1975, the Whitlam government was forced to go into retirement. American intelligence services were a party to this "state turnover Australian-style", as the world press pointed out. The new Australian government was headed by the leader of the conservative parties, Frazier, who spoke out in favor of strengthening military cooperation with the US.
A conservative government also came to power in New Zealand, and rejected participation in the development and implementation of the ideas of a nuclearfree zone. The conservative governments of Australia and New Zealand adopted the decision to renew visits tp their ports by US ships aiid; submarines carrying nuclear Weapons.
In 1985, the nature of the ANZUS alliance changed after the government of New Zealand refused access to its ports by nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered warships of the U.S. Navy. After extensive efforts to resolve the issue proved unsuccessful, the United States suspended its ANZUS security obligations to New Zealand in August 1986.
The U.S.-Australia alliance under the ANZUS treaty remains in full force. Defense ministers of one or both nations often have joined the annual ministerial meetings, which are supplemented by consultations between the U.S. Commander in Chief Pacific and the Australian Chief of Defense Force. There also are regular civilian and military consultations between the two governments at lower levels. The United States would welcome New Zealand's reassessment of its legislation to permit that country's return to full ANZUS cooperation.
By 1989 the Pentagon has established over 15 military bases and installations in Australia which played an appreciable role in supporting U.S. combat activity. In late 1988 these two countries extended for another ten years the effective period of an agreement for U.S. lease of military installations at Pine Gap and Nurrunga (the official names are the Joint U.S.-Australian Military Space Research Center and the Joint U.S.-Australian Military Satellite Communication Center). Actually, however, these are centers for collecting intelligence.
The center at Pine Gap for receiving information and transmitting commands to satellites was established on the basis of a 1966 U.S.-Australian agreement. It is located in the country's desert area not far from the city of Alice Springs (Northern Territory) in a spot where least cloudiness on the globe is seen and occupies an area of around 26 km2. In the mid-1980's over 200 American specialists worked there, some of whom were connected with leading military-industrial forms engaged in producing electronic and space equipment, while the others were associates of intelligence services. Referring to words of a former CIA associate, the WALL STREET JOURNAL wrote that Pine Gap resembles a giant vacuum cleaner which sucks in all possible electronic signals ranging from telemetry data transmitted during tests of Soviet rockets to ordinary telephone conversations.
The center at Nurrunga for receiving and processing data from satellites began functioning in 1971 (in accordance with a 1969 agreement). It is near the city of Woomera, in the state of South Australia. A ground station has been set up here which is part of the American IMEWS space system warning of a nuclear missile attack. Emphasizing the importance of these installations in announcing the extension of agreements in Parliament, the Australian prime minister noted that these centers Dlay a key role in collecting intelligence.
Australia will allow more US installations on its land and will permit the United States to use more ports, bases, and other facilities. The Australian Defence Ministry confirmed that in June 2010, a special team from the US Air Force arrived in northern Australia to survey Exmouth’s top-secret Harold E. Holt base for possible expansion of US space surveillance of Chinese satellites and submarines.
On 16 November 2011 President Barack Obama joined Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to announce expanded military-to-military relationships between the two countries as they commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Australia-New Zealand-U.S. alliance. Speaking at a joint news conference in the Australian capital of Canberra, the leaders announced closer collaboration between the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force and the Australian Defense Force.
The announcement on 16 November 2011 by President Barack Obama that he planned to station U.S. troops in Australia is drewing mixed reactions at the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia, where ongoing territorial conflicts in the South China Sea were a major issue. Philippine Secretary of Communications Ricky Carandang welcomed the news that the United States will station 2,500 military personnel in its Australia's Northern Territory over the next few years. “If you are asking me in general how I view the increased engagement of the U.S. in Australia and the region, we view the presence of the Americans here, the renewed engagement of the U.S. here as ultimately a stabilizing force," Carandang said.
- Beginning in mid-2012, company-size rotations of 200 to 250 Marines will begin deploying near Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory for six-month rotations. Gillard said the presence will expand to a force of 2,500 over the next several years.
- Obama and Gillard also agreed to provide U.S. military aircraft greater access to Royal Australian Air Force facilities in northern Australia.
Hariyadi Wirawan, a professor of international relations at the University of Indonesia, says the news could lead to increased tension between the United States and China at the East Asia Summit and could hamper efforts by ASEAN leaders to craft a code of conduct with China to peacefully resolve disputes. “The whole idea of creating this new arrangement of security is in itself, can be seen also as a provocation to China and will expect a kind of harsh response from China, from Beijing," Wirawan said.
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