Deal highlights America’s fear of rising power in China.
The United States and Australia are currently finalizing a deal that will see a number of U.S. B-1 bombers deployed to Darwin. While not officially confirmed by the Australian government, U.S. Pacific Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson made the announcement to media sources on Tuesday.
Robinson outlined the rotation plan that will send B-1 bombers to air bases in Darwin and Katherine. There the U.S. will train alongside Australia’s Air Force, rotating in and out on an ad hoc basis. While many are hailing it as a proactive step in maintaining military dominance over China in the region, the maneuver also highlights the growing military prowess of the Chinese.
The key point to notice is that the B-1 bombers will be sent to Australia from Guam, not from Hawaii or the U.S. mainland. Since the 1940s, the island of Guam has been key to America’s projection of power into Southeast Asia. The island is home to one of the United States’ four key forward-bomber bases.
Location and size make Guam ideal for a U.S. airbase. Situated almost 4,000 miles west of Hawaii, the island is pivotal in U.S. efforts to maintain a dominant and near-at-hand military presence in Asia. The island is within range of the region’s pivotal sea-lanes and areas of contention, particularly the South China Sea.
However, China’s advancements in missile technology and its creation of man-made islands in the region bring Guam into China’s range too.
Until recently, Guam sat just outside China’s missile capabilities. But as U.S. think tank Stratfor pointed out in an article this week, China’s development of intermediate-range ballistic missiles now puts the U.S. airbase well within China’s reach.
As the saying goes, you shouldn’t put all your eggs—or bombers—in one basket.
As China’s reach grows, Australia’s role is becoming more important. But U.S. and Australian efforts to contain China may already be too little too late. Just this week, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said, “The military’s antiterrorism and counterinsurgency focus of the last 15 years has shortchanged the Army’s training and preparedness to fight high-end threats, hybrid threats, enemy artillery and enemy electronic warfare.” The high-end threats he referred to are China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
Keep watching as the U.S. strives to prevent itself from being outmaneuvered in Southeast Asia. While Australia and other U.S. allies in the region may be cooperative, the moving of bombers to Australia shows that Washington has been caught off guard by Chinese expansion into the region. ▪
Full article: U.S. to Send Bombers to Australia (The Trumpet)