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US troops arrive in Top End for Marine Rotational Force Darwin

18 April 2017 6:20 AM
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US troops arrive in Top End for Marine Rotational Force Darwin

About 1250 US Marines have begun arriving in Darwin as part of a new rotation of forces in the Top End.

THE first of 1250 US Marines have begun to touch down in Darwin as they “stand ready to fight” against North Korea should the situation escalate.

The Marines began arriving in Australia’s tropical north on Tuesday for a six-month deployment during which they will conduct exercises with Australian and visiting Chinese forces.

Commanding Officer of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton, says the 1250 US Marine deployment to Darwin stands ready to fight if tensions between his country and North Korea escalate into direct conflict.

The 25-year annual deployment program started by former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2011 is part of the U.S. “pivot” to Asia at a time of increased assertiveness by China.

Lieut. Colonel Middleton said when US Marines were in forward deployment they were ready for battle.

“I think that the commitment that we’ve taken to put a task force here with a conversation to get larger over the years says that we do think this is an important region,” Lieut. Colonel Middleton said.

He is leading the sixth and most complex US marine air-ground task force to be deployed to the Territory.

“Being close to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, the Indo Pacific position has always been important.”

Also read: Blunt North Korea warning to Australia

Along with the 1250 marines that make up the latest Darwin rotation of US troops, it will eventually include up to 13 aircraft, four tilt-rotor Ospreys, five Super Cobra helicopters and four Huey helicopters.

“The aviation combat element is our most robust deployment to Darwin,” Lieut. Colonel Middleton said.

When asked about the North Korea stand-off he said: “We stand ready to fight.”

The marines are from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, California. They will be based at Robertson Barracks, RAAF Base Darwin and Defence Establishment Berrimah.

Marine Rotational Force Darwin is mainly a series of joint exercises, training and exchanges between the US and the Australian Defence Force, but some exercises will also involve military personnel from China and other Asian countries.

The US has rotated a small force of Marines through Darwin since 2012. It was originally planned to send a full Marine Air-Ground Task Force of 2500 Marines to Australia by 2016, but the timeline has been pushed back to around 2020.

U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to near the Korean peninsula as a show of force aimed at deterring North Korea from conducting more missiles tests. Pyongyang launched a failed missile test on Sunday and has warned Washington against taking military action against North Korea.

The Australia-US-China military exercises are also aimed at Australia charting a course between its most important security ally the United States and its biggest trading partner China.

Australia has drawn rebukes from both superpowers as it tries to strike a balanced stance on the disputed South China Sea, with China criticising Australian freedom-of-navigation flights in the area and a senior U.S. soldier calling on Australia to do more there.

Also read: US marines arriving in NT ready 'for anything' in wake of North Korean threat


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