Two hundred U.S. Marines arrived Wednesday at their new base in Darwin, Australia, the first of 2,500 that eventually will be deployed there as part of the Pentagon’s effort to increase the U.S. military presence in Asia.
The Marines, who will rotate in for six month tours in small units, will be housed in Australian barracks just outside the port city, but will travel throughout the region to meet and train with U.S allies, according to Marine Corps officials.
Darwin is in the far north of Australia, 500 miles south of Indonesia and close to the strategically vital, resource-rich and hotly contested waters of the South China Sea.
China claims broad sovereignty over the South China Sea — a claim not recognized by its neighbors.
Beijing viewed the U.S.-Australia deal, signed during ceremonies to mark the 60th anniversary of the alliance between the two countries, as a threatening move, analysts say.
Canberra and Washington sought to allay Chinese concerns, describing the deal as a way to increase cooperation among allied militaries in the region, not as an act of force projection aimed at China.
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