Australia to build military fuel reserve with US funding
Iran Press TV
Thursday, 30 July 2020 10:33 AM
The Australian government plans to set up a military fuel reserve in the port city of Darwin with funding provided by the United States, an apparent move to boost military cooperation with Washington amid rising tensions with China.
The chief minister of Australia's Northern Territory, of which Darwin is the capital, announced the plan on Thursday, saying it was part of a wider agreement to expand military ties following high-level talks recently held in Washington.
"What I am allowed to say is it will be thumpingly large, but the US government will be spending the money to see it built," a spokeswoman for the chief minister said, adding that the deal "recognizes the Territory as one of the nation's most strategically important defense locations."
Darwin, an isolated city of 130,000 people, is closer to some Asian capitals than to the Australian capital of Canberra. The city has hosted a contingent of 1,250 US Marines since 2011 as part of Washington's so-called "Pivot to Asia" strategy to impose its hegemony and thwart China's influence in the region.
Military experts believe the fuel reserve facility in Australia's Darwin would be useful for the United States in the event of a conflict with China.
The United States has over the past years been at loggerheads with Beijing over a range of issues, including trade, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Australia has, in the meantime, followed in Washington's footsteps and taken sides with Beijing's rivals.
Recently, tensions increased between Australia and China when Canberra backed a call by US President Donald Trump for an investigation into the origins of the new coronavirus. Trump calls the coronavirus "the Wuhan Virus," a reference to the name of the Chinese city where it first emerged and an attempt to stigmatize China.
In the wake of Canberra's repetition of Trump's call, China cut back on its imports from Australia. That in turn badly hit Australian businesses, which then criticized the government for unnecessarily alienating Beijing.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had said on Tuesday that his country would follow its own national interests before boosting military cooperation with the US in the strategic South China Sea – an area of contention with China – an indication that he was dialing down on Australia's anti-China posture.
The plan for the construction of the fuel reserve will likely further anger Beijing.
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