The United States is in talks to base long-range bombers in Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) reported Wednesday, a move that could inflame tensions with China.
Talks are underway with Australia to allow US B-1 bombers and aerial tankers to be temporarily stationed in Australia’s Northern Territory, US Pacific Air Forces General Lori Robinson was quoted by the ABC as saying.
That would position US military aircraft close to the disputed South China Sea, almost all of which is claimed by China, Reuters reports.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims.
Tensions between the United States and China have been inflamed in recent weeks.
The US Navy has carried out freedom of navigation exercises, sailing near disputed islands to underscore its rights to operate in the seas.
Those patrols, and reports that China is deploying advanced missiles, fighters and radar equipment on islands there, have led Washington and Beijing to trade accusations of militarizing the region.
The US will continue to conduct exercises through the disputed waterway, the ABC quoted Robinson as saying.
She called on Australia to conduct similar freedom of navigation exercises.
“We would encourage anybody in the region and around the world to fly and sail in international air space in accordance with international rules and norms,” Robinson said.
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