A US State Department opinion poll leaked this week to the Australiannewspaper has reignited the controversy over last year’s leasing of the commercial port of Darwin to the Chinese company Landbridge. The agreement provoked barely concealed hostility from Washington. President Obama reportedly told Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to “let us know next time” during their first one-on-one meeting in Manila last November.
Darwin is the focus of a major US military build-up in northern Australia as part of the broader “pivot to Asia” aimed at preparing for war with China. Next year the number of US Marines “rotating” through the northern city is due to reach 2,500—the maximum agreed in 2011 by the Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. This week, General Lori Robinson, commander of the US Pacific Air Forces, confirmed that high-level talks were taking place to station long-range American bombers, potentially including supersonic B-1s, in air bases near Darwin.