The United States military is preparing to spend more than a quarter of a billion dollars on naval construction in the Northern Territory, in a move that could raise tensions with China.
According to the Senate’s annual defence legislation, tabled in June, the “Secretary of the Navy may acquire real property and carry out military construction projects for the installations or locations outside the United States”.
Just last month the ABC revealed that secret planning had begun for a new commercial port facility just outside Darwin which could eventually help US Marines operate more readily in the Indo-Pacific.
Following the report, Australia’s Defence Department insisted it had “no plans for the development of a new naval facility in the Northern Territory”, while Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner denied any knowledge of such a proposal.
In 2015, Washington expressed disappointment after Chinese company Landbridge was given a 99-year-lease of Darwin’s existing port, but Federal Government sources privately concede any new maritime facility which could be used by American personnel also risks angering Beijing.