Secret planning underway for US naval base in Darwin

Somehow I missed this during the week, at the ABC:

Secret planning has begun for a new port facility just outside Darwin which could eventually help US Marines operate more readily in the Indo-Pacific.

Precise details remain tightly guarded but senior defence and federal government figures concede the proposal may risk angering China even though it’s a commercial port, not a new military base.

Multiple officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have confirmed to the ABC the multi-use development would be in the Glyde Point area, roughly 40 kilometres north-east of Darwin’s existing port.

In the past, the location has been earmarked by the Northern Territory Government as a possible future industrial port site given its relatively deep waters, but funding arrangements for the yet-to-be announced project remain unclear.

Darwin port, which was controversially leased to a Chinese company in 2015, has existing defence facilities such as a multi-user barge ramp, but the new proposed facility would have the additional advantages of being less busy and less visible.

If approved, the new port could eventually be able to accommodate large amphibious warships such as Australia’s Landing Helicopter Docks, and American vessels such as the USS Wasp, which recently arrived in Sydney.

Strategic experts believe a new deep-water port would be ideally suited for the more than 2,000 US Marines and their equipment during regular rotations through the Top End.

“The Americans are clearly not withdrawing from the Indo-Pacific, whether it’s because of their strategic competition with China or more generally,” said Rory Medcalf from the Australian National University.

The ABC approached the Defence Department and the US Embassy in Canberra for comment, but both are yet to respond to detailed questions on timing and costs.

In a statement, the department simply insisted “Defence has no plans for the development of a new naval facility in the Northern Territory”, while the US embassy declined to comment.

The Federal Government referred all questions about future port development to the Territory Government, but a spokesman for NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he was not aware of any proposal.

It’s understood a formal announcement on the new maritime facility could be made as early as next month when the “Talisman Sabre” war games with the US begin in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

One senior Commonwealth source said any public unveiling had been deliberately delayed until well after the recent Indonesian presidential election race, but would still be likely to cause angst in Beijing.

“I’d be surprised if the Chinese don’t already know about it, but they can’t complain because they’re building similar ports in this region,” the senior figure told the ABC.

Another source familiar with early discussions on the proposal claimed the United States had examined various options in the region to berth large amphibious assault ships, including Singapore, but had concluded Northern Australia was the best strategic location.

Recent hints point to American ambitions in Top End

An imminent announcement of a new maritime facility in the Northern Territory would not come as a complete surprise for Darwin locals and close strategic observers of the recent military build up in the Indo-Pacific.

Recently, a $40 million road was constructed to Gunn Point, near Glyde Point, a project which was completed quickly and was said to be for improving access to fishing areas.

In 2015, the year Chinese company Landbridge began a 99-year-lease of Darwin Port, the US’s then-chief of navy operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, revealed the Pentagon was considering having a permanent naval base in Australia.

Just last month the Pentagon’s latest Indo-Pacific Strategy Report stated that the United States was seeking to “evolve our posture and balance key capabilities across South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania to have a more dynamic and distributed presence and access locations across the region.”

This is the best damn news I have read in a long time. I propose we call it the Andrew Robb Naval Base.

Houses and Holes

David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the fouding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.

He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.

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Comments

  1. US clearly doesn’t need a new base in Darwin to deal with South China sea problem. Darwin is so far that it doesn’t matter for that problem at all (US has numerous bases in Philippines, Thailand, Guam, South Korea, Japan that are much closer that Darwin)

    • South China Sea is only the first problem. Chinese military doctrine also focuses on the second and third island chains.

    • Strange Economics

      After Minister Andrew Robb sold Darwin Port to China (Chinese govt connected company) the US defence department was upset.
      Then he got a job with them 3 months later, and the leaked job description said… do not much…. (you’ve done enough?)
      What has Pyne got to worry about conflicts of interest – nothing will happen.

      So now 40 Million for a road to good barrumundi fishing. Then THe US and Australia to spend what ? 1 billion? on a new port.
      Benefits of this privatisation — minus billions…

  2. Hmmm….I don’t think we benefit from this. We are one of the few US allies without a base in our territory, and that is something we should be proud of. America is our friend and ally, not an occupying force. We should have a relationship as equals, however asymmetrical it is. Also, our distinct interests should be respected by the Americans: we are a fellow Allied power, helped give birth to the UN and create the current world order. This is our continent.

  3. Also, this isn’t about the First Island Chain, this is about the Second, which includes the Indian Ocean. So Christmas Island just got a lot more important…as did East Timor.

    • DominicMEMBER

      Why would you care at this point? 1,000 international bases becomes 1,001.

      It’s beyond crazy (and it isn’t sustainable, long term) but hey, rather have the Marines at the northern tip of Straya patronising the bars and keeping the (ahem) ladies occupied than not having a stake of some sort in these parts.

    • bolstroodMEMBER

      You don’t seem to understand , Australia desperately WANTS to be someones Colony.
      It’s what we know and grew up on. Imbibed it from our Mothers (England’s) teat.
      Only yesterday our shiny new PM promised our support to the US in it’s next war with Iran.
      What has Iran ever done to Australia ? Does ANZUS reqire us to do so ?
      No.
      But it satisfies our need for a big and powerful (and rich) “friend”.

  4. So we have to pay the US to build a new port in Darwin because we leased the old port to the Chinese? I wonder if any ex-politician got rich out of that deal?

    • I’ll eat a turd in Macy’s window if Australia is going to pay for it. Aussies have reaped massive benefits from US hegemony in the Pacific for several decades. And yet you still find a way to complain about it.

      • Even StevenMEMBER

        Not everyone is ungrateful for the stability the US has provided… most people should be thanking their lucky stars that such a powerful nation as the US is as benign as it is. The grass is always greener for some fools…

      • USA “benign”? Sure, if you don’t care about all those murdered Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Phillipino’s, Koreans, Indonesians etc

      • Even StevenMEMBER

        The word ‘relatively’ is implicit in nearly all of my comments.

        Because I’m sure Russia, China, India, most of the Middle East, most of Africa, most of South America would have acted SO much better if they had the military power, reach and influence of the US.

        Count your blessings. Or focus on the glass being half empty – up to you.

    • Strange Economics

      Yep – Robbs sale has cost billions. So much for “benefits of privatisation”. Meanwhile Robbs total salary over the next few years 1 million.
      Censure ? None. No wonder Pyne is not worried.

    • John Howards Bowling Coach

      Agreed, seems a lot easier to me. I guess the irony is that the BRI has built many other unwanted ports in various nations and now we’ll build one to protest against it???

  5. I would let the US military build the base, mobilise the US Navy Seabees, it will be much cheaper if the Australian Defence Department did NOT become involved with procurement decisions.
    Australian Defence officials would likely award the work to a big EPC such as the John Holland Group

    • John Howards Bowling Coach

      Given John Holland is 100% Chinese owned you can be pretty sure they will NOT get that contract

      • Believe you me, there will be someone at Defence who will be bedazzled by the low-low price and award it to John Holland.
        I recently saw one Department of Defence tender and in the tender documentation (RAAF jet fuel infrastructure at Darwin airport) was this……….
        Quote…………………
        “For tenders seeking the procurement of goods and services with an estimated total contract value equal to or greater than $551,000, or construction contracts with an estimated total contract value equal to or greater than $7,769,000, and where bids are received from companies based in the United States, Chile, Korea, China or Japan, the ‘Local Purchasing Preferences’ must not be applied and all bids, including those from companies based in the United States, Chile, Korea, China or Japan should be considered equally and in accordance with the Value for Money Policy (set out at section (c) below). This is to ensure xxx compliance with the terms of the Australia – US (AUSFTA), Australia – Chile (ACIFTA), Korea – Australia (KAFTA), China – Australia (ChAFTA) and Japan – Australia (JAEPA) free trade agreements.”

        THIS WAS IN A DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE COMMERCIAL DOCUMENT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • The RAAF is doing a few upgrade engineering construction projects up in the NT.
        I find it laughable that they are sourcing some of it (thru subcontractors working for the head contractor) from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
        Meanwhile you have fabrication shops shutting down and engineers driving taxis up there in Darwin
        So why not China?

  6. JunkyardMEMBER

    Spent 5 years in Darwin during the late 90’s. Was always interesting when the US came to town for war games.

    Was there when that dummy missile fell off the RAAF jet and cut that poor dudes Landcruiser in half. In true territory spirit he left it there and made it an attraction.

    https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://www.abc.net.au/news/image/10053396-3×2-940×627.jpg&imgrefurl=https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-30/basil-roes-ute/10053458&docid=rhBAv6eHP3h3UM&tbnid=QBlS9kccflgqqM:&vet=1&w=940&h=627&source=sh/x/im

  7. TailorTrashMEMBER

    Now this is true Strayan innovative thinking ……sell the (probably aging and in need of substantial repair ) port of Darwin to the Chinese…( thank you Dick Robb …best $800K ever spent ) …..now build a new state of the art defence facility with our old friends just a wee bit down the road ………

    Having over the years observed how silly American companies give their technology to China in the hope of riches ……only to see a new factory take form over the river
    with identical output ….(cheaper of course )…..

    ..this is beautiful………”…the anger will be a thing to behold ……..perhaps 7 ships to Sydney Harbour………….

    Gentlemen….hold the perimeter at all costs ……do not give an inch of milkpowder……

  8. Why doesn’t the Australian goverment just cancel the Chinese lease on Darwin – rather than building a rival point of influence & control?

    That’s a better & clearer message.

    Then start building the internment camps for roundup & containment & then forcible deportation of the 1.1 million* communist mainland born Chinese non citizens that should never have been allowed into Australia in the first place.

    First tho – Darwin is too far from the action and the Chinese encirclement of their South China Sea claim or for the US to effectively blockade China.

    Here is a much better map of what is facing off and what is needed.
    Forbes April 2019 -> US naval bases right inside that claim.
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2019/04/12/5-reasons-u-s-maritime-supremacy-in-the-western-pacific-may-be-doomed/

    *Chinese mainland born communists onshore in Australia.
    1.3 million.

    And yep – and over 1 million are Chinese mainland born communist non citizens – onshore.
    Hard to believe, but it’s true.

    🇨🇳262,000 mainland born Chinese communists now with citizen grants (ABS) – mostly elderly, high net welfare & health care burden, many can’t speak English after a decade in Australia . We are probably stuck with those – but they all need a good vetting.

    🇨🇳 426,000 mainland born Chinese communists as ‘PR’ – Chinese Nationals that refuse adoption of Australian identity or assimilation. (ABS 396,000 in 2016 census, now 30,000+ more). Many can’t speak English and live in Chinese only enclaves. Hoovering up our free Welfare & Medicare, but remaining China First 🇨🇳 Nationals.

    🇨🇳106,000 Chinese born mainland communists who have infiltrated via the ‘stepping stone’ countries like the NZ SCV racket. NZ Dept Stats estimate.
    Same ‘Intake with Chinese characteristics’

    🇨🇳 328,000 mainland born Chinese communists that are here as TR – living in Chinese only enclaves and many in visa breach. DHA TR Stats – country of origin.

    🇨🇳And 190,000 or more mainland born Chinese communists onshore at any one time – who have entered as ‘long stay or repeat stay’ visitors or ‘tourists’ many living & working illegally. Tourism Australia and Austrade report.

    🇨🇳(Plus a fair chunk of the 65,000 overstayers)

    That’s at least 1,312,000 Chinese mainland born communists – onshore.
    And only 262,000 or 19% are ‘Australian citizens’

    The rest or 1,050,000 or more are China First 🇨🇳 or Non citizens.
    => 4 out of 5 Chinese mainland born communists inside Australia are non Australian citizens.

    90% or 945,000 are concentrated in just Sydney & Melbourne.

    A result of years of our broken borders and the large scale highly corrupted foreign syndicate & Chinese government visa racketeering of Chinese Nationals into Australia.

    As part of China’s 5 year plan to deliberately dump their tier 1 cities unwanted Hukou** peasant underclass into a naive Australia & other western economies & to establish their south Guangzhou colony.

    9 million have been ‘exported’
    100 million more to dump somewhere.

    The issue is within.

    **Chinese Hukou – 2nd & 3rd generation peasants that moved to the tier 1 cities in china’s industrialisation. Lowlife peasants, petty criminals, failed social credit score, vice Workers, broken down old & sick, socially undesirable. Denied a tier 1 city pass, limits in health care, education, not able to register to live permanently in the Chinese tier 1 cities.

    https://www.cultivateleadership.org/blog-1/2018/2/15/chinas-middle-class-is-pulling-up-the-ladder-behind-itself

    Excerpt: “Roughly one-fifth of China’s population, some 250 to 300 million people, have irregular hukou status. The reform of the hukou system is a major plank of the Five Year Plan from 2016 to 2020. Under the reforms, 100 million internal migrant illegals are to have their hukou status ‘regularized’ by 2020. The first-tier cities opted to regularize their populations by expelling hukou applicants. Second-tier cities like Chengdu grant hukou status only if they have a masters degree. Third-tier cities will take them if they buy local real estate. But the Hukou are poor & uneducated with no access to higher education”.

    The Chinese communist government in conjunction with the Chinese criminal syndicates have collaborated over the last decade to export & traffic this Chinese social welfare & economic burden overseas.

    Over 9 million Hukou poor, lowlife, criminals and failed social credit score have been exported so far as ‘China 🇨🇳 First’ colonisation of foreign countries in exploiting the borders and visa systems of foreign countries.

    The West, South Asia, Africa etc.

    To enter Australia as ‘Foreign students & partners, business & sponsored visas, or increasingly as ‘visitors in long stay & repeat stay.

    Australia now has 1.3 million mainland born communists Chinese onshore.

    The vast majority – especially the last decade have been this peasant and criminal Hukou underclass.

  9. – It’s one more sign of how “out of whack” US foreign policy has become. The thing that rubs me the wrong way the most is that those US (military) expansions are paid for by those same foreigners. (complicated story).
    – The good news is that the US economy is about to tank in the next months. Then it will become more and more difficult to finance that US military expansion. Then the US will be FORCED to withdraw their troops from around the world.