US Marines in Darwin - The Force Posture Agreement

The Force Posture Agreement between the U.S. and Australian Governments

Bevan Ramsden

This Agreement makes Australia a base in the Indo-Pacific-South East Asia for the U.S. military and from which they can parade their strength, intimidate and launch hostile acts against our neighbours.

The Force Posture Agreement between the Governments of the U.S. and Australia facilitates:

The stationing in Darwin, for six months each year, of up to 2,500 US Marines; they are trained and equipped for immediate deployment and who, while in Australia, train for war in exercises with the Australian Defence Forces

Access to Australia’s airfields and airport facilities for US fighter planes and bombers

Access to Australia’s seaports for U.S. naval vessels

 The Agreement states (Article VII) :

“United States Forces and its contractors shall have unimpeded access to Agreed Facilities and Areas for all matters relating to the pre-positioning and storage of defence equipment and supplies including delivery, management, inspection, use , maintenance and removal of such pre-positioned material.

As mutually determined by the Parties, aircraft, vehicles and vessels operated by or for United States Forces shall have access to aerial ports and sea ports of Australia and other locations, for the delivery to, storage and maintenance in, and removal from, the territory of Australia of United States Forces’ pre-positioned material.”

In short, the Agreement enables the United States not only to station its troops in Darwin but to store on Australian soil, US war supplies including spare parts, fuel, weapons, ammunition and bombs and opens Australia’s seaports to their navy and airports and runways for the use of their air-force.

This Agreement makes Australia a base in the Indo-Pacific-South East Asia for the U.S. military and from which they can launch hostile acts against our neighbours. Currently they have in their sights on the islands claimed by China in the South China sea and some commentators have said they have their sights set on blocking the straits of Malacca in order to put pressure on China by blocking its major shipping route.

The US strategy could be summed up as being a policy to contain China in order to maintain U.S. hegemony on the Indo-Pacific-South East Asia area.

The Agreement lasts for 25 years with the possibility of extension. It may be terminated by either party giving one year’s notice. It is the most recent addition to U.S. military bases in Australia with functions complementary to them.

Whilst the Force Posture Agreement comprises the most all-embracing and comprehensive US military utilisation of Australia as a base for its operations, the process started back in the 1960’s with the US establishing the North-West Cape submarine communications base then Pine Gap. The latter utilises spy satellites to provide vital intelligence for US war operations as well as targeting information for their notorious US drone assassination program.

Cost to the Australian Taxpayer

The initial cost of implementing the Force Posture Agreement according to the Defence Minister Marise Payne is $2-3 billion with the costs shared between the US and Australia. The proportion borne by the Australian taxpayer has been kept secret for “national security reasons” said Minister Payne in reply to a letter from the Marrickville Peace Group and in reply to questions raised with the Minister by Sharon Claydon, Newcastle MP on behalf of the Hunter Peace Group. Cost wise, there are additionally annual costs to maintain the activities carried out under this Agreement; these annual costs are also secret for the same vague “national security” reasons.

Commencement of the Force Posture Agreement

The Force Posture Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America was signed in Sydney on 12th August, 2014 by Julie Bishop (Minister for Foreign Affairs) and David Johnston (Minister for Defence) on behalf of the Australian Government, and by John F. Kerry (Secretary of State) and Chuck Hagel (Secretary of Defence) for the Government of the United States.

However the concept was put to a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament by the President Obama on 16th November, 2011 as part of the US “Pivot to Asia” of its military forces, a strategy designed to “contain” China and maintain U.S. hegemony in the Asia/Pacific area. President Obama’s concept was enthusiastically received by all politicians of both major parties.

Community responses

Following Obama’s Pivot to Asia announcement in Federal Parliament in November, 2011 there was immediate response to the public announcement with a gathering in early 2012 of organisations (8 at that time) with the aim of establishing a national network to build a mass campaign for an independent foreign policy with opposition to US marines & bases in Australia.  The network’s name and objectives were finalised mid-2012 and IPAN (Independent and Peaceful Australia Network) was officially launched nationally on 9 September 2012 on the International Day for Peace.

In Melbourne a public forum was held in July, 2012 announcing the establishment of IPAN;

a succession of public and union meetings followed as IPAN sought to raise community awareness of the Force Posture Agreement and its implications.

A further community response to the Force Posture Agreement and stationing of US troops in Darwin was the holding of a conference in Canberra at Easter, 2014 comprised of peace, faith, trade unions and anti-war organisations from around Australia. This conference of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network, IPAN, stated as part of its mission:

“To advocate for an independent and peaceful Australia, free of foreign military bases, and free of interventions by other foreign Governments, corporations, or vested interests, that at present seek to exert undue influence, in shaping Australia’s foreign and defence policies, in a manner that diminishes Australia’s sovereignty.

This mission statement does not simply address U.S. interference in Australia but also makes it clear its opposition to interference by any foreign government and that includes Russia and China.

Force Posture 2018

1,587 U.S. Marines arrived in Darwin in March/April, this year together with eight MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and an artillery battery of six M777 Howitzers. At the 2018 AUSMIN Summit between the US and Australia Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers it was stated that efforts are being made to increase the number of US troops in Darwin to 2,500.

U.S. Marines are now imbedded on board Australia’s naval ship HMAS Adelaide which has been fitted out with amphibious landing gear to land the US Marines on shores which they are directed to capture and secure as that is the role for which they are trained. War exercises planned for 2018 include the HMAS Adelaide with US Marines on board. One might well ask who controls and directs the US Marines on board Australian naval ships and indeed who directs the Australian ships with the US marines on board. A further question would be: “which territories are the US Marines practising to invade, capture and secure?”

Finally we should be asking: “Is it to our benefit or indeed to our detriment, to be associated with and indeed integrated into, such potential US war scenarios?”

IPAN is running a public campaign to urge Government to terminate the Force Posture Agreement and send the U.S. Marines home.

Bevan Ramsden is a NSW Representative on the IPAN National Coordinating Committee

Spirit of Eureka is a founding member of IPAN (Independent and Peaceful Australia Network) -

 

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