03:17 GMT05 August 2020
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    The US and Australia have been stepping up their military presence across the Western Pacific amid fears that China would gain more influence in the South China Sea which is a strategic passageway rich in natural resources.

    The US plans to build additional military infrastructure in Australia once Congress approves a $211.5 million budget for the US Navy, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told Sky News on Tuesday.

    Payne did not elaborate on what exactly the US was planning to build. However, Australian media reported earlier this month that the plans were for a new port facility near Darwin in the north of the country. 

    Under the Force Posture Initiatives, signed between the two countries in 2011, 2,500 US Marines train in Australia each year. They are housed in an Australian base at Darwin.

    At the same time, media reports say, China's Landbridge Group secured a 99-year lease on the Port of Darwin in 2015.

     USS Nimitz, USS Chosin, USS Sampson, and USS Pinkney in South China Sea (File)
    © CC0
    USS Nimitz, USS Chosin, USS Sampson, and USS Pinkney in South China Sea (File)

    The US and Australia have jointly taken measures to strengthen their positions in the Western Pacific under the pretext of China's growing influence in the region, in particular in the South China Sea, which is a strategically important territory rich in oil and gas resources.

    The majority of islands in the South China Sea are controlled by Beijing, however, the territory is also claimed by several other countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei and the Philippines. 

    Relations between the US and China have been strained since last year when Washington imposed tariffs on goods imported from China over allegedly disproportionate levels of mutual trade. Beijing criticised the US move and came up with a set of retaliatory steps. 

    military infrastructure, South China Sea dispute, South China Sea, US, China, Australia
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