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From Darwin to Daru – US-China rivalry escalates

Written by: (Contributed) on 26 December 2020


The intensification of the US-led Cold War hostilities in the Indo-Pacific have had serious implications for countries closely allied with the US.

In Australia and Japan, the two most important hubs for 'US interests', US regional foreign policy has been responsible for raising concerns about internal security and sovereignty.

A recent US Defence Department report, likewise, has thrown further light on regional diplomatic positions and hostilities which look set to escalate still further, with specific implications for Australia and its designated role for military and security provision in the South Pacific, particularly in light of recent planning for a development project financed by China in Papua New Guinea.

Moves by the US to re-establish its First Fleet which was de-commissioned nearly half a century ago have provided further evidence of US regional military planning and the new Cold War. It has been accompanied by US military planning to re-establish the Second Fleet, responsible for the military and security provision of the eastern coast and north Atlantic, in August 2018. (1)

The Pentagon intends the First Fleet to patrol the Indian Ocean area together with the Pacific, to relieve pressure on the existing Seventh Fleet, which has taken a central role in regional Cold War hostilities with Beijing.

Darwin - host base for a revivied US First Fleet?

A four-column feature spread in the Australian has revealed serious consideration has already been given to Australia providing base facilities for the First Fleet, most likely to be Darwin, which already has a large US military presence. (2)

The US military presence in Darwin forms part of US-led rapid regional deployment facilities; thousands of US troops and other personnel are rotated through northern Australia on an annual basis. The article stated 'soon it could be getting a fleet base to match', with reference to the First Fleet 'securing south and South-east Asia … Darwin is on the doorstep of that territory and is best placed to pitch for basing rights'. (3)

Such statements leave little to the imagination: Australia is being drawn ever closer into US-led regional military planning, with real-war scenarios a likely consideration.

Other elements of US-led Cold War positions should also be considered: recent statements from US diplomatic personnel about people thought to have links with China and their acquisition of land and premises near to sensitive facilities have also been raised, providing evidence of wholesale US interference in both Australia and Japan and elsewhere.

Last year a mainstream Australian publication produced a lengthy intelligence-type assessment on China's role in purchasing what were considered strategic assets in Australia. (4) The publication, including numerous graphs, charts and other visual material, left readers in little doubt about dominant mind-sets of Cold War military hawks based in the Pentagon. It also included the classic Cold War statement which accused China of 'planting Communist Party-approved Mandarin teachers in schools and universities', together with references to what were considered China's cyber attacks on Canberra, which was also used to project conspiracy theories and hysteria about the 'enemy within'. (5)

The moves were, likewise, accompanied with similar statements about Japan, where China was also accused of buying strategic assets. (6) The Japanese connection was regarded as particularly sensitive on account of the country being considered for membership of the elite Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network. Problems, however, appear to have arisen: it was divulged by the US, for example, that 'western intelligence agencies … remain sceptical about their Japanese counterparts' ability to keep the most secret of secrets that are shared among the alliance's members'. (7) Intelligence assessments would appear to have been undertaken by the US on Japanese defence and security personnel with some regarded as unsuitable.

A recent US joint chiefs of staff defence report has also thrown further light on contemporary Cold War positions: the US position regards China as 'undermining the existing world order', and presenting a credible challenge to traditional hegemonic positions. (8) The report also acknowledged the US had an estimated sixty per cent of their US navy combat ships already deployed in the region although it 'could no longer presume unfettered access to the world's oceans in times of conflict'. (9) The balance of forces would appear to be swinging against the US.

It is significant, therefore, to note the present Australian Coalition government has been responsible for extending diplomatic provision for military advisors and attache networks to all South-east Asian countries. (10) They will, no doubt, be responsible for pushing the US-led diplomatic line at all times, and assessing suspected Chinese influences in classic Cold War style as the basis for future military exercises and operations.

Daru - China throws US apologists into a panic

Recent developments in PNG, in the South Pacific, likewise, have also not escaped the general pattern of US-led meddling and espionage.

It was noted, for example, that moves by China and the Fuijan Zhonghong Fishery Company to establish a fisheries development project in Daru, PNG, were considered highly suspicious as there were 'no fish in the water but with Australia in sight, the planned facility presumably is aimed at threatening the Torres Strait'. (11) No evidence was provided although fears apparently existed that the planned fishery will provide China with access to wharf facilities for navy ships only two hundred kms from mainland Australia. (12)

The planned fishery project, however, followed earlier moves to establish projects with economic development potential for PNG with China several months ago. (13) It is important to note PNG has, historically, had problems with economic development programs, particularly those with fisheries and commercial viability with local markets. (14) Sustainability has not been considered possible.

Elsewhere, Australian military assessments have included reference to PNG being 'central
to our security interests'. (15) At no time, it would appear, has Australia even considered commercially viable fisheries projects in PNG as part of already existing aid budgets and programs. This is despite the fact that Australia has a large seafood business sector, with readily available expertise for aid agencies to draw upon; assistance to mining companies would appear a more important consideration with Australian foreign aid allocations.

Australia has had a long-time role in the South Pacific. Its track record is not particularly impressive. The countries to the north of Australia remain largely under-developed and subject to neo-colonial relations.

Australia initially took control of then New Guinea following the First World War with the defeat of Germany, which had, historically, controlled part of the vast landmass. For over a century Australia has remained a dominant partner; through a colonial administration until 1975, then following independence, with massive foreign aid programs. They tend to favour mining corporations which extract much of PNG's minerals; ordinary PNG citizens see few benefits, although shareholders around the world applaud their dividends.

It is perhaps part of another US-led agenda through Canberra to keep PNG poor, and therefore, easier to dominate rather than facilitate commercially viable economic development projects. As the country has remained dependent upon Australian and other foreign aid, those who have paid the piper invariably have also called the tune.

China now, however, would appear to have challenged the position.

At no time, furthermore, was it mentioned in official reports that Daru remains one of the poorest areas of PNG and the planned fishery will provide local people with a source of income, readily available food and commercially viable trade with China's huge markets.  Australia's defence and security considerations in the South Pacific and neo-colonial relations have taken priority over the general health and well-being of Pacific islanders.

With US-led military planning for escalating Cold War hostilities in the Indo-Pacific:

                                            We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     US to revive old fleet as curb against Beijing, Australian, 20 November 2020.
2.     US should station a new First Fleet on our northern coast, Australian, 15 December 2020.
3.     Ibid.
4.     How China owns Australia, The Daily Mail, 1 December 2019.
5.     Ibid.
6.     China is buying land, The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 December 2020.
7.     Japan wants help to get in on Five Eyes, Australian, 9 October 2020.
8.     China's reach 'greatest threat', Australian, 21 December 2020.
9.     Ibid.
10.   Boost to military ties with Japanese, Australian, 16 November 2020.
11.   Australian, op.cit., 15 December 2020.
12.   Australian, op.cit., 21 December 2020.
13.   PNG to access China's seafood market, The Post Courier (PNG), 16 June 2020.
14.   Chinese fisheries project, The PNG Attitude, 28 November 2020.
15.   Australia goes back to the future in the South Pacific, Editorial, The Weekend Australian, 22-23 September 2018.


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