US in talks to base long-range bombers in Australia
Washington is in talks to station its strike bombers in Australia, according to a US general, amid concern about China's military expansion in the South China Sea.
General Lori Robinson, commander of US Pacific Air Forces, said negotiations were under way to have American B-1 bombers and aerial tankers temporarily stationed in northern Australia.
"We're in the process of talking about rotational forces, bombers and tankers out of Australia and it gives us the opportunity to train with Australia," she said according to national radio aired Wednesday.
"It gives us the opportunity to strengthen the ties we already have with the Royal Australian Air Force and it gives the opportunity to train our pilots to understand the theatre and how important it is to strengthen our ties with our great allies, the RAAF."
The US has been pursuing a foreign policy "pivot" towards Asia, which has rattled China, and already stations Marines in Australia's north.
Beijing said it was "concerned" by reports of the US-Australia talks.
"To seek peace, cooperation and development is an important trend in the region and what all people aspire for," said Hong Lei, a spokesman from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Relevant cooperation among countries should serve the purpose of safeguarding regional peace and stability.
"Such cooperation should not target the interests of a third party".
Last May, Assistant Defense Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear raised the prospect of B-1 bombers in Australia when he appeared before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But his comments were played down by Australia's then prime minister Tony Abbott, who said Shear had "misspoken".