- The US Department of Defence is trying to appropriate $US211.5 to expand its navy presence in Darwin, according to documents before US Congress.
- The project, if approved, would represent a major part of a $2 billion expansion of US force in the region but both the Australian and the US governments are tightlipped over the plan.
- It comes less than a week after authorities from both countries expressed their concern over a reported pact between China and Cambodia that would allow the Chinese military its own expansion in the Pacific.
The US Department of Defence is considering spending $305.9 million on naval infrastructure in Darwin as it expands its presence in Australia but it doesn’t want to say what it’s going to build.
According to a drafted US Congressional bill the ABC discovered, $US211.5 is being put aside for “Navy Military Construction” in the Northern Territory capital, pending approval by US lawmakers.
However, other than outlining that “the Secretary of the Navy may acquire real property and carry out military construction projects for the installations or locations outside the United States”, the bill itself carries very few details.
The same bill also mentions proposed “military constructions” to be built predominately at points around the Pacific, including in Guam and Japan. The Darwin project is the second most expensive project in the bill, with the Guam proposal– strategically-positioned with Korea and Japan to its north and Taiwan to its west — coming in slightly higher at $327 million.
It comes as tensions simmer between the two global superpowers in the disputed South China Sea and the Pacific more broadly. Last week, a US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait, a day after China warned it would use force to protect its interests.
If approved, the proposed Darwin project would be one of the biggest US military developments in Australia in recent years. However, despite that implication, authorities on both sides of the Pacific are reluctant to speak about the project.
“The $211.5M (USD) in the draft Congress Bill is identified against an agreed works plan under the (US Force Posture Initiatives). This funding is not yet approved,” was all that an Australian Defence spokesperson would tell Business Insider Australia about the plan.
It would not be drawn on what exactly US Defence wants to build in Darwin, how long the plans had been under consideration and what level of input the Australian government has had.
It did reveal however that the Darwin proposal forms part of the US Force Posture Initiatives, a concerted effort to build $2 billion worth of defence-related infrastructure to strengthen its presence in northern Australia and “position both nations to better respond to crises in the region”, according to the Australian Department of Defence.
“These infrastructure projects include but are not limited to airfields, accommodation, training areas and ranges,” the spokesperson said.
The US is also funding a project in Geraldton in Western Australia and last year sent more than 1,500 US Marines to the Top End — its largest-ever rotation of US naval forces in Australia. The US already operates Pine Gap, its highly secretive intelligence base, in Alice Springs and has agreements with the Australia government to use several RAAF bases.
It comes less than a week after both the US and Australian governments expressed their concern over a secret deal struck between Cambodia and China.
The pact would allow the Chinese military to access the Cambodian Ream naval base near Sihanoukville, according to the Wall Street Journal. Both Cambodia and China have denied the report.
Now it appears that the US and Australian militaries have struck their own secretive deal.
Business Insider Australia has contacted the US Department of Defence for comment.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.