from Daily Mail
The United States will send 1,200 Marines to Australia in coming weeks amid increasing tensions between Western nations and China over COVID-19.
The main force will begin arriving in Darwin in early June but an advance party of 54 Marines has been stationed in the Northern Territory for two months.
The US and Australian governments postponed this year’s deployment of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That month US Defense Secretary Mark Esper barred almost all official movement overseas for military personnel.
The risk of spreading COVID-19 into vulnerable remote Aboriginal communities was also considered too great for the rotation to go ahead.
That decision was reversed this month and the Marines will now exercise with Australian forces at defence training areas in the territory until September.
This year’s rotation had originally been scheduled to involve 2,500 Marines, about the same number of troops who were stationed in Darwin last year.
All Marines will undergo 14 days of quarantine when they touch down and be submitted to a rigorous coronavirus testing regime.
The troops will already have been in isolation for a fortnight since arriving at their staging base in Okinawa, Japan.
Each Marine will be screened for COVID-19 four days before departing Japan and tested again in Darwin before and after quarantine.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the deployment demonstrated Australia’s close defence relationship with the United States.
The Marine Rotational Force – Darwin exemplifies the strength of the Australia-United States Alliance and sends a clear signal about our shared commitment to regional security,’ Ms Reynolds said.
‘I am pleased that the modified deployment will proceed this year, following careful planning and preparations undertaken by both Australia and the United States to minimise COVID-19 risks to the Northern Territory.’
The first Marine Rotation Force – Darwin deployment was announced by then US president Barack Obama and then Australian prime minister Julia Gillard in 2011.
The initial rotation of 200 troops arrived in 2012 and until this year had been increasing in size and complexity.
‘The Marines will achieve significant training outcomes with the Australian Defence Force while rigorously adhering to the restrictions in place to safely manage COVID-19 in the Territory,’ Ms Reynolds said.