US deploy marines in Australia, rise in tension in Korean penin
CANBERRA: The US on Tuesday deployed 1,250 marines in Australia's Northern Territory, the sixth contingent of a rotation programme, amid a rise in tensions in the Korean Peninsula.
They are "ready to fight" at the time of an eventual conflict with North Korea, according to a senior US military official.
The marines, the first ones on a rotation of six months this dry season, were stationed at the Darwin base, where they are set to undergo a training programme, Efe news reported.
The Commanding Officer of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton, said the US military was ready for combat in the event tensions between the US and North Korea were to rise.
"Any time a marine force is forward deployed, we are always on standby for anything," said Middleton.
He also said that this was the most complex air-land marine force to be deployed in northern Australia, a zone of strategic importance due to its proximity to southeastern Asia and the Pacific.
"I think that the commitment that we've taken to put a task force here with a conversation to get larger over the years says that we do think this is an important region," added Middleton.
The military deployment will also include four Osprey aircraft, five Bell AH-1 SuperCobra and four "Huey" Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters.
Rotation of marines in Darwin began in 2012 after an agreement was signed between then US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011, to deploy up to 2,500 soldiers by 2016, a number that is set to increase by 2020.