Washington: The US will begin flying its world-leading F-22 stealth fighters from bases in Australia, amid mounting tensions in the South China Sea.
America’s Pacific commander Admiral Harry Harris revealed during a speech at the Lowy Insititute think tank that he had signed an agreement with the Australians to host not just the Raptors, but enough US military assets to constitute a “credible combat power” – saying the US wanted to maintain “enduring interests” in the region
Euan Graham, the think tank’s director of international security, said the move represented “pretty high-end coercive signalling to China”, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Admiral Harris described the threats posed by Isis and by North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests – but, speaking days after the revelation that China had flown a nuclear-capable bomber over a disputed section of the South China Sea, he was “loud and clear” on how he viewed the strategic situation in the Pacific.
He said: “Significant challenges are posed by a revanchist Russia and an increasingly assertive China. Both Moscow and Beijing have choices to make. They can choose to disregard the rules-based international order, or they can contribute to it as responsible stakeholders. The US obviously prefers that they choose to respond responsibly.
“No one, including me, wants conflict. I’ve been loud and clear that I prefer cooperation so that we can collectively address our shared security challenges.
“But I’ve also been loud and clear that we will not allow the shared domains to be closed down unilaterally, no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea.
“We will cooperate where we can, but we will be ready to confront where we must.
“No one should doubt the long-term friendship between the United States and Australia. This commitment is important as we face the extraordinary challenges in this region.”