The US is reportedly set to dramatically deepen military ties with Australia by sending a small fleet of B-52 bombers Down Under, in a move aimed squarely at countering China's military might in the region.
According to a bombshell report by the ABC as part of a Four Corners investigation, the US is readying to deploy up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to northern Australia.
The powerful aircraft are expected to be housed at a special facility at Tindal air base, south of Darwin, which Washington plans to build, the national broadcaster reported.
The initiative is currently in the design phase.
The provocative move will no doubt rankle Beijing.
The bombers have been the backbone of the US Navy for the past 50 years and are capable of carrying out long-range strikes with conventional and nuclear weapons.
"Having bombers that could range and potentially attack mainland China could be very important in sending a signal to China" over any potential move the Communist Party make on Taiwan, Becca Wasser from the Centre for New American Security, told the ABC.
The news drew a wide range of reaction on Monday morning, with some expressing concern over the ongoing military escalation in Australia's region.
"This is a dangerous escalation," tweeted NSW Greens senator David Shoebridge.
"It makes Australia an even bigger part of the global nuclear weapons threat to humanity’s very existence — and by rising military tensions it further destabilises our region."
The two nations are also working together to upgrade airfields, fuel storage facilities, accommodation and training areas.
Pointing to the build-up of US military assets in the country, veteran journalist Tony Walker said Australia was becoming "the unsinkable aircraft carrier by stealth" .
His colleague Peter Cronau described the "military madness" as "fanning tensions with China".
US bombers have visited Australia since the early 1980s and have conducted training missions since 2005.
Dr Malcolm Davis, a senior defence analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, suggested the permanent stationing of bombers on Australian soil was the inevitable result of China's increased aggression.
"This is a sensible move by the US and Australia, given the rising risk of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan," he tweeted.
Pacific peace a priority: US ambassador to Australia
The US ambassador says Washington and Canberra need to continue to work together to maintain peace as tensions heighten in the Pacific.
Caroline Kennedy said on Monday the two nations had worked together for decades to support a rules-based order that's lifted millions out of poverty by supporting peace and stability in the region.
Ms Kennedy said continued peace in the Indo-Pacific needed to be underpinned by a mix of diplomacy and deterrence.
"That's what we're going to continue to do," she told the ABC News Breakfast this morning.
"We'll work with our partners and allies to make this safe.
"America doesn't have a stronger, closer ally. I see that every day as I go around," she said.
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