Not yet anyway. It appears the issue was misreported by the MSM yesterday, via the ABC:
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has ruled out the United States deploying mid-range missiles in Australia, confirming no formal request has been made.
Senator Reynolds said the issue was canvassed during high-level talks with her US counterpart, Defence Secretary Mark Esper, in Sydney yesterday.
“I can confirm that he made no request, and that he wasn’t anticipating any request,” she told RN Breakfast.
When pushed to clarify, the Minister recounted her conversation with Mr Esper.
“I asked him directly, ‘was there any expectation of a request’, and he said ‘no’,” she said.
On his way to Australia for the annual AUSMIN (Australia-US Ministerial) talks, Mr Esper flagged American intentions to deploy land-based conventionally armed missiles in locations throughout the region.
It follows Chinese military expansion in the region and the breakdown of a Cold War-era treaty with Russia, which controlled the proliferation of such missiles.
“We now are free to develop that range of weapons, 500 kilometres to 5,500 kilometres, that had not been available to us from a ground-based deterrent posture,” he said.
China’s military expansion includes stocks of Dong-Feng 26s, an intermediate-range ballistic missile that is capable of travelling up to 5,500km.
When asked about the potential for American hardware on Australian soil yesterday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne appeared to leave open the possibility.
“The presence of the US and its military forces in this region has been a force for stability for decades, and Australia has consistently welcomed that force and presence,” she said.
Even without the details, signalling an intention to deploy missiles in the region raises the possibility of an arms race between the US and China, putting Australia in a deeply difficult position between its most important security ally and largest trading partner.
The Trump administration has been increasingly belligerent towards Beijing, and Mr Esper used the AUSMIN talks to ratchet up the rhetoric, accusing China of engaging in a “disturbing pattern of aggressive behaviour, destabilising behaviour” in the region.
Mr Esper, a former US Army veteran with an expertise in China, assumed the top job at the Pentagon last month.
China has responded angrily to the “groundless attacks and slanders”, issuing a statement through its embassy in Australia.
“During their visit to Australia … senior US officials carried out groundless attacks and slanders on China’s role in the region, exposing the hegemonic mentality of certain US forces,” a spokesperson said.
“Their plot will not succeed.”
The AFR has some interesting analysis from ASPI senior analyst Malcolm Davis:
“If they base these missiles here near RAAF Tindal and they have the maximum range of 5500km, they can cover everything in the South China Sea and they can range deep into eastern China, so they can cover a lot of key targets on the Chinese seaboard.”
“We’re already a target. A Chinese DF26 [missile] from Mischief Reef can already reach well past RAAF Tindal. Chinese cruise missiles launched from bombers operating out of the island of Hainan could certainly cover Pine Gap,” he says.
“If you have American forces operating from the north any how, including not only the Marines but also the expanded air exercise program with US bombers coming into northern Australia, they are going to target those bases in a conflict.
I’m agnostic on such deployment. Whatever it takes for the Communist Party of China to be kept at bay in the Canberra swamp.