Article by Greg Sheridan courtesy of The Australian.
Australia is probably now a more important military ally for the US than at any time since World War II.
Australians, with our real estate obsessions, should understand why: Location! Location! Location!
Australia is a very suitable, and very big, piece of real estate.
As the acting US ambassador, Mike Goldman, makes clear in an interview with my colleague, Ben Packham, northern Australia in particular is increasingly important to the US strategically.
As the senior diplomat observes, US forces on Guam, and within the “first island chain”, are acutely vulnerable to Chinese missile attack.
The US needs a far wider dispersal of its Indo-Pacific forces, further from the Chinese mainland but still close to the likely hotspots in any conflict, namely Taiwan and, to a much lesser extent, the South China Sea.
The acting ambassador’s argument that it is just common sense to pre-position more US defence materiel, supplies of all kinds but especially munitions, including presumably substantial numbers of missiles, is unarguable.
The US needs a lot more fire power near the centre of potential conflict but beyond immediate Chinese range.
It was revealed recently that when Washington first discussed the marine rotation in northern Australia, it proposed an annual rotation of 5000 marines; in effect, a Marine Amphibious Task Group. Instead, Australia began with extreme caution at a couple of hundred marines, building up slowly to 2000 a year.
Yet such US deployments make a huge, positive contribution to our own security.
But in anything to do with Australian defence, the pace is always insanely slow, as though there were only one thing to fear more than war, and that is a disruption to the hypnotic rhythms of bureaucratic life.
We are only now extending some of the runways in northern Australia so they can accommodate US strategic bombers. Their presence on our soil directly contributes to our security. We should have been doing it years ago as a matter of high priority
They also greatly enhance regional stability by reinforcing the US presence in the Indo-Pacific generally. Encouraging that US presence has been core Australian strategic doctrine for more than 100 years.
It is encouraging to see a senior US diplomat confirm that talks are well progressed about the US licensing the manufacture of US missiles in Australia.
Missiles remain one of the central ways in which Australia can increase its strategic weight over the next decade.
Allies, proceed with all speed.