Australia and the United States have announced plans to increase military cooperation so the Nations can be a "determined force for stability" in maintaining "a free and open Indo-Pacific region". US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the Defense one, Lloyd Austin, welcomed their Australian counterparts, Richard Marles and Penny Wong, for the annual high-level talks between the 2 allies (AUSMIN), the first one since the PM Albanese Government has taken office. After this meeting both the parts announced an increased military cooperation would result in an "increased rotational presence of US forces in Australia". In details, this includes rotations of bomber task forces, fighters, and future rotations of US Navy and US Army capabilities. The target is to deepen the inter-operability between the 2 countries’ defense forces and create more agile and resilient capabilities. Australia and the US also signaled that they are looking to extend their military cooperation with Japan, inviting Tokyo to integrate into their force posture initiatives in Australia. Despite neither Mr Marles nor Senator Wong called out China by name during the press conference, Secretary Austin said China is the greatest threat to stability in the Indo-Pacific region and its dangerous and coercive actions throughout the Indo-Pacific, including around Taiwan, toward the Pacific island countries and in the East and South China Seas, threaten regional peace and stability. As part of the step-up in defense ties, the announcement made is the latest step in the growth of the US presence in Australia, which already includes US Marines rotating through Darwin (MRF-D), and plans to preposition munitions and fuel in the continent-island to support its military forces as upgrades airfields in northern Australia to enable rotations of US aircraft. A perfect example is the US-funded aircraft parking apron at RAAF Base Tindal, 320 km south-east of Darwin, which will be capable of accommodating up to 6 B-52 long-range, heavy bomber aircraft once constructed. During the meeting, all 4 representatives also acknowledged that Australia's defense forces suffered from some "capability gap", the most important one is seeking to pursue a nuclear-powered submarine capability. Unfortunately, neither the US nor the rest of the AUKUS leadership have provided details regarding the optimal pathway for Australia to get a nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarine as quickly as possible. In the meantime, in US, some political authorities as Virginia congressman Rob Wittman, who is the most senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee's seapower subcommittee, have already anticipated that there is no way that Australia is going to receive a nuclear-powered submarine built for the USN. At this stage, a possible option could see an arrangement working where the US built a submarine that operated in Australia's area of responsibility and manned by a "dual crew" of sailors from both nations.
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