DARWIN – [AAP]
The Northern Territory’s chief minister says he is not concerned about US plans to station bombers and aerial tankers in the Top End.
It was revealed on Tuesday that discussions are under way for the US to rotate the machinery through the NT, as concerns grow over China’s expansion in the Asia-Pacific region.
But on Wednesday NT chief minister Adam Giles said he wasn’t worried.
‘These discussions have been going on for quite some time and it doesn’t draw real concern for what we see is an opportunity of strengthening the defence of the Top End,’ he told ABC’s AM program on Wednesday.
An increase in the number of American military forces in the NT has been planned for some time, but Mr Giles denied that the intensification would affect Australia’s relationship with China.
‘Not at all,’ he said.
‘The opportunities for us to continue to grow strengths with allies, to work within Asia, makes us a mature partner with many different nations in the way we conduct ourselves as friends, as neighbours and as business partners.’
The NT recently signed a deal with Chinese company Landbridge to lease the Darwin Port for 99 years, which sparked a parliamentary inquiry and has raised concerns about having a strategic port used by defence and Border Force under Chinese control.
Mr Giles said the NT worked with a variety of foreign investors.
‘We can’t get too hung up on this US vs China role, we all want global security, we’ve got some big powerful allies in the region,’ he said.
He said he was neither surprised nor bothered to learn that US State Department officials had polled Australians on the NT’s decision to lease the Darwin Port, in which reportedly half of those surveyed thought it was a big risk to allow the Chinese so much control.
‘Whenever we bring in a new player as an investor in Australia, or any other part of the world, for that matter, people do have a lot of scepticism; nobody likes change, we all know that,’ Mr Giles said.
He said there had never been any concern expressed to him about the deal by defence departments from Australia, the US, or anywhere else.