Two-hundred US Marines arrived at the Top End this morning as part of what is considered a controversial joint training exercise with members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
American troops will continue to arrive in six-month rotations until 2017, eventually totalling 2,500 Marines, per an agreement set up between PM Julia Gillard and US President Barack Obama during a visit last November, ABC News reported.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard stressed, however, that “there are no US military bases in Australia and this will not change” in a statement last night."This initiative will provide tangible benefits for Australia by increasing the number, variety and complexity of training opportunities for the ADF and further developing our interoperability with US forces.
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"It also supports Australia’s long-held strategic interests in supporting US engagement in our region in a manner that promotes peace and stability.”
Critics of the move, however, are voicing concern over the absence of any legal paperwork stating that the US forces will not bring nuclear weapons or cluster munitions into the country.
All the concerns we have outlined as still present. None of them have been formally resolved," Justin Tutty of the Darwin-based Basewatch group told The Age after a meeting with Australian Major General Michael Krause last week. "But we feel really good that at least they understand what those concerns are and they are verbally answering them correctly."