Tuesday, April 24, 2012
US Marine Base a Mistake says Fraser
Two hundred American Marines from Fox Company have arrived in Darwin, the first of a force that will grow to 2,500 over the next few years. The US wants to monitor sea trade routes, especially the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Indonesia. Half the world's trade travels this route and it must be kept open and protected from any kind of potential threat or blockade.
Beijing's influence has reached into the Pacific and is causing some concern, namely over Papua New Guinea and Fiji. China is very interested in the economic resources of New Guinea and they now have close relations with Fiji, filling the friendship gap that Australia once enjoyed.
Australia and America's friendship is set in stone and always will be but some people are worried what message it sends to other countries in our region. Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcoln Fraser is calling the marine force in Darwin a "base" and warns that our "grovelling" to Washington is harming our ties with Asia.
He has written a strongly-worded submission to the federal government's white paper on future relations with Asia. He thinks that our assumption that America offers a security guarantee is false. "For over twenty years now, we have given the impression of doing whatever America wants" he wrote "We seem to believe that our security can be best assured if we do what we can to win Brownie points with the US. This is a mistaken assumption." He added "No country can really win Bronie points with great powers. Great powers follow their own national interests and we should follow ours.
He continues "For America to say that 2,500 troops do not constitute a base is nonsense, indeed a fabrication. In military terms, a base does not have to be bricks and mortar. If 2,500 troops are stationed in a particular place, then the language makes it quite plain that they are based in that place. It is a base. To say that they are just passing through and that it is not a base is deceptive and misleading, it sends the wrong message, not only to China, but to countries like Indonesia."
He believes that if the US turn the Cocos Islands into a base for unmanned surveillance drones, he worries that Australia can no longer be viewed as an independent nation.
And here's his bottom line about the mother country. He reminds us about how we once relied on Britain to save us. "We believed Britain would be able to secure our future" he writes. "It never occurred to us that Britain would be so preoccupied, so beleaguered, that in a situation of emergency, she would not be able to help."