As Australia and the United States refocus their priorities toward Asia, Washington will move a powerful radar to Australia from Antigua and a space telescope under a bilateral space deal between the two nations.
NASA/Chris Gunn The first six flight ready James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror segments are prepped to begin final cryogenic testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith, in a Wednesday news conference to mark the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Perth, said the transfer of the U.S. Air Force C-band radar would allow the U.S. to improve tracking of space debris in the southern hemisphere and space launches by China.
Also being moved to Australia is a new space surveillance telescope that tracks small objects at deep space altitudes at 35,000 kilometres high. The Defence Advanced Research Project Agency, the high tech research arm of Pentagon, built the new telescope as part of the Defence Department's increasing its focus on space as a new potential battlefield where Beijing has achieved significant progress.
Mr Smith said the two devices will be stationed at the Harold E. Holt communications base in Western Australia. It will be operated by Australians who will receive training from the U.S. military. He estimated the cost to get the radar operational at $30 million and another $8 million to $10 million to maintain the radar.
Despite this development, the two nations assured China through a communiqué released at the close of the yearly AUSMIN that Beijing has no reason to be concerned over the expansion of American use of defence bases in Darwin.
Another 200 American Marines are scheduled to train in Australia in 2013, which would increase to 1,100 in 2014 and 2,500 in 2016.
"There is no language of containment in this, but we both welcome China's role as a responsible member of the international community," News.com.au quoted Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr.
U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton added the Pacific is large enough for all.
"By the same token we both recognise that increased cooperation with China is mutually beneficial. So this is not a zero-sum competition . . . Rather it is up to the U.S. and Australia to lead the way in demonstrating that the strong relationship between us can also help foster strong, healthy relations with China because the entire region will benefit from a peaceful rise of China," Ms Clinton said.
Meanwhile, reports said that protesters have gathered outside the AUSMIN meeting to pressure the U.S. to ensure the protection of human rights in the Arms Trade Treaty. The groups who lied down on a carpet of red fabric with tombstones as background include Amnesty International Oxfam, Act for Peace, ActionAid and the Medical Association for Prevention of War.
Organisers of the protest said the tombstone represents the lives lost yearly on account of arms trade.