Wednesday 15 Aug 2018 | 00:13 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 15 Aug 2018 | 00:13 | SYDNEY

US forces, give the nod?


Rory Medcalf


1 June 2010 12:33

I had an uncomfortable moment last week while being interviewed by a Japanese journalist seeking Australian views on the controversy over the US airbase at Futenma.

No doubt the Australian security establishment dearly wants to see the US maintain a strong defence presence in Asia. So too – as the new Lowy poll indicates – does a growing majority of Australians spooked by, among other things, the implications of rising Chinese military power. Yet it felt awkward, not to mention hypocritical, for me to say that Australia would want Japan to keep hosting US forces on its soil – even though this is hardly something we are offering.

If Australians are becoming more positive (and needy) about America's strategic role in Asia, and want to encourage this to endure at a time when some other allies seem to be having mixed feelings, where might this logic ultimately lead? Is it really too early to begin contemplating what for decades has been unthinkable: a US military presence on Australian soil?

Nobody is seriously talking about it yet, but we could be seeing the first intimations that a day will come when a durable alliance with Washington demands nothing less. Then it will be much easier for us to preach to Japan about how to be a good ally.