The U.S. is reportedly planning to deploy as many as six nuclear-capable B-52 bomber planes to the north tip of Australia, a move that China declared to be a serious provocation in one of the world’s most sensitive regions.
Plans are underway for the U.S. to build new facilities for the long-range bombers at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal in the country’s Northern Territory, as reported by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
“It’s a sign to the Chinese that we are willing to be the tip of the spear,” Richard Tanter, an Australian professor and defense analyst at the Nautilus Institute, told ABC. “It’s very hard to think of a … more open signal to the Chinese that we’re going along with American planning for a war with China.”
The plans include detailed designs for an aircraft parking area, a “squadron operations center” and maintenance facility, as well as new fuel storage tanks and an ammunition bunker, ABC reported.
This news comes as multiple U.S. officials warn that China is intensifying its plans to retake the Western-leaning island of Taiwan. Most recently, the chief of U.S. naval operations said he couldn’t rule out Beijing making a move by 2024.
It also coincides with a $1.6 billion upgrade to the Australian air base with a goal of bolstering capability in the Indo-Pacific region, the Australian government announced.
Ashley Townshend, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that base is “fast becoming one of the most important” in northern Australia, and “one from which both Australia and the U.S. will undertake high-end military operations in the Indo-Pacific.”
Zhao Lijian, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, cast the news as a provocation that “increased regional tensions, seriously undermined regional peace and stability, and may trigger an arms race in the region,” the Associated Press reported.
“China urges the parties concerned to abandon the outdated Cold War and zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical thinking, and to do something conducive to regional peace and stability and enhancing mutual trust between the countries,” Zhao said.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese dodged questions about the potential bomber deployments, AP reported. But the U.S. Air Force told ABC the deployment “sends a strong message to adversaries about our ability to project lethal air power.”