U.S. Marines have arrived in Australia amid continued controversy about weapons testing from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The servicemen will be stationed in the north of Australia for six months and will participate in military exercises with their Chinese and Australian counterparts. Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Brian Middleton said the troops are ready for battle if tensions escalate with the DPRK
“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,” Middleton said
The 1,250 U.S. Marine troops are the sixth and most complex U.S. 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,” Middleton stated.
The Marines will eventually be joined by approximately 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,” the colonel added. When asked about the North Korea stand-off, he said, “We stand ready to fight.”
The 1,250 troops are from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, California. They will be based at Robertson Barracks, Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin and Defence Establishment Berrimah. Marine Rotational Force Darwin is mainly a series of joint exercises, training and exchanges between the U.S. and the Australian Defence Force, but some exercises will also involve military personnel from China and other Asian countries.
The U.S. has consistently rotated a small force of Marines in Darwin since 2012. The original plan was to send a full Marine Air-Ground Task Force of 2500 to Australia by 2016, but that timeline has been pushed back to around 2020.
U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail near the Korean peninsula as a show of force aimed at deterring North Korea from conducting more missiles tests.
The Australia-U.S.-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. As in recent times, Australia has been criticized by both superpowers as it tries to remain neutral on the South China Sea dispute.