Tuesday, June 20, 2006

PM backs US bases --Australia

PM backs US bases
Nick Butterly

THE Federal Government would welcome US military bases on Australian soil, Prime Minister John Howard has said.

But such bases would likely upset other countries in the region, particularly China and Indonesia.

The US and Australia have flagged building large joint bases in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

It was reported yesterday that a proposed base at Bradshaw, in the NT, would have a landing strip for huge C-17 transport planes and accommodation for about 750 troops, about

as many as in a US Marine Corps expeditionary battalion. There are also plans for a joint amphibious landing training ground at Yampi Sound, in WA's far northwest.

Mr Howard said yesterday he would warmly welcome military bases but refused to comment on any specific plans.

"Can I say very openly that the notion of that sort of thing occurring in Australia . . . involving American forces is not something that I would other than very warmly welcome," he said.

"As far as I'm concerned, subject always to the proper arrangements to fully respect and maintain and continue to observe Australian sovereignty, the notion of bases or operational facilities or training facilities by Americans is something I would warmly welcome.

"My understanding is that all the Americans want at the present time is to have a capacity to train," he said.

"I don't have any difficulty with that, and I imagine it would be quite warmly supported by the Australian public," Mr Howard said.

A spokesman for the Indonesian embassy said that reports about the new bases were being monitored.

"We are looking closely into this matter and have reported it to Jakarta," he said.

A Bradshaw base would give the US a much-needed launching point from which to tackle any regional conflicts and natural disasters.

Australia has already agreed to allow US B-52 bombers to use parts of the NT as practice bombing ranges.

Mr Howard is due to meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono next week to discuss terrorism, immigration and a landmark security treaty.

No comments: