Magazine article Insight on the News

US-Australia Pact Shifts Pacific Balance of Power

Magazine article Insight on the News

US-Australia Pact Shifts Pacific Balance of Power

Article excerpt

The United States and Australia are expanding their military ties to keep aggressors off-balance.

Under a recent agreement, the United States and Australia are upgrading their long-standing defense alliance and expanding joint activities ranging from spy satellites to war games. The move, aimed at bolstering America's security presence throughout the Asia-Pacific region, is being watched closely by friends and potential foes alike.

At the annual U.S.-Australian ministerial conference m Sydney m late July, Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Secretary of Defense William Perry met with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Ian McLachlan. The officials agreed to take the following steps:

* U.S. and Australian forces will hold joint large-scale war games every two years, in addition to smaller operations. The first such exercises will be held in March in Australian's northern state of Queensland and will involve 17,000 American and 5,000 Australian soldiers.

* The United States will upgrade a command center for spy satellites located at Pine Gap in central Australia, and Australia will extend its lease to the U.S. government until at least 2008. During the Persian Gulf War, Pine Gap played an important role in providing data on targets in Iraq.

* Australia will continue to provide a ground-based relay station for the U.S. global nuclear early-warning system, and the two nations will collaborate on research into counterproliferation and missile-defense technologies.

Such measures are "an added form of insurance" against political and military uncertainties in East Asia and the Pacific, says Kent E. Calder, a Princeton University scholar and author of Pacific Defense: Arms, Energy, and America's Role in Asia. "We've had a deep security relationship with Australia for a long time, and now we're building on that."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, elected earlier this year, pledged to "reinvigorate" the U.S.-Australian alliance. Traditionally, military ties between the two nations were part of a three-way defense pact including New Zealand. That pact has had an uncertain status in recent years due to New Zealand's opposition to American warships armed with nuclear weapons.

The closing of U. …

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