US Looks to Store Weapons in Northern Australia Amid China Threat

May 26, 2021 Updated: May 26, 2021

Acting U.S. ­ambassador to Australia, Mike Goldman, has told News Corp’s The Australian that the United States wants to put military weapons in the north of Australia to project force amid Beijing’s growing strategic threats.

Goldman said given U.S. bases, like in Guam, were within reach of Chinese missiles, it “just makes sense” to forward deploy U.S. war stock in Australia, and that it offered strategic advantages.

He’d also like to see Australia make precision-guided weapons onshore as part of a more “innovative defence partnership” between Australia and the United States.

“A lot of that just makes perfect intuitive sense, particularly when we talk about how we are going to project force in any sort of contingency,” he said in an interview that ranged from tensions with China over Taiwan to carbon emissions.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on March 17, 2021. Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison considers it a priority of the government to create a sovereign guided weapons capability, which was an idea first explored in the Department of Defence’s Force Structure Plan.

He has also backed a plan to spend $1 billion (US$780 million) to boost the creation of a Sovereign Guided Weapons Enterprise. On March 31, the Department of Defence announced it would select a strategic industry partner to operate the manufacturing capability of sovereign guided weapons on behalf of the government.

“Creating our own sovereign capability on Australian soil is essential to keep Australians safe, while also providing thousands of local jobs in businesses right across the defence supply chain,” Morrison said.

The new enterprise would support missile and guided weapons manufacturing for use across the Australian Defence Force.

“We are in a new geostrategic context now that requires a different set of platforms and a different force posture,” the U.S. ambassador said.

“These things aren’t instantaneous but our militaries and strategic thinkers are engaged in discussions about how best to confront these new challenges–together. So I think we will see new, innovative ways that we are enhancing our partnership.”

Goldman indicated that a bilateral force posture review working group had met for the first time ­in May to discuss “a wide range of contingencies.” The group was established following last year’s AUSMIN talks.

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75SQN personnel launching A21-005 and A21-010 on a night training mission from RAAF Base Tindal on June 10, 2020. (LAC Brandon Murray/ADF)

The United States has already moved to strengthen its defence capability in northern Australia. In May 2020, the United States Naval Facilities Command Pacific awarded Australian company, Cockram, a contract worth more than $12.8 million (US$10 million) to build an earth-covered magazine (ECM) facility at RAAF Base Tindal, south-east of Darwin in the Northern Territory.

The project will construct two ECM’s and a production area that will include a munitions assembly conveyor shelter to support Australian and U.S. military joint training activities, the Department of Defence said online.

The U.S. ambassador also indicated that current tensions with China over Taiwan would not shake the “unbreakable” ANZUS alliance, which will have its 70th anniversary in September. Goldman said the alliance was “much stronger and more comprehensive than any one contingency.”

“We are not going to dictate countries’ self-interest here. Every country will have to make its own determination (on Taiwan),” he said.

He reportedly noted the complexity of managing a difficult relationship with China as western countries like the United States sought to work with the communist regime on cutting carbon emissions.

This, he said, made it more challenging than the Cold War with Russia.

Follow Caden on Twitter: @cadenpearson