The US is to significantly ramp up its military presence in Australia, leading to concerns that China will see this as a threat. Meeting with Australian prime minister Julia Gillard this week, Barack Obama confirmed that the US marine presence in Australia would be increased to around 2,500 personnel over the next few years.
US and Australian officials were quick to insist that the move is not a snub to China and does not escalate tensions in the region. But Chinese officials have already questioned the US decision, and there are reportedly fears in Beijing that the US is attempted a stealth encirclement. Similar deals have been signed in recent years between the US and Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines.
The announcement is being seen by some as a provocative move, while others question whether it will really achieve anything other than annoying China. For Australia, the benefits are particularly difficult to identify, since it’s apparent that the marines will contribute little to the Australian economy.