MOSCOW, August 11 (RIA Novosti) – The United States plans to increase the number of warplanes and troops rotating through an Australian Air Force base near the city of Darwin, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
"The interest here is for tactical aircraft for closer cooperation between the Australian and US air forces," an Australian defense official told the WSJ.
Boosting the American military presence in Australia is to be discussed during the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to the base outside Darwin, scheduled for August 11-13. The officials are to take part in the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations and also oversee the biennial Exercise Pitch Black drills, featuring warplanes from the United States, Singapore, France, the UAE, Thailand, New Zealand and Australia.
Washington is planning to more than double the number of US troops on the base near Darwin, the paper said, referring to Kerry’s briefing notes. The facility currently accommodates around 1,100 US marines and other personnel.
The green light for closer military cooperation was given back in June during talks between US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
"We are…working to explore opportunities to expand cooperation on ballistic missile defense, including working together to identify potential Australian contributions to ballistic-missile defense in the Asia-Pacific region," a June 12 White House statement read.
The WSJ cited US defense strategists as saying that Australian military bases are situated a safer distance from a potential Chinese missile strike than existing US bases in Japan, South Korea and Guam.