of that, the alliance we now have is absolutely founded
on trust. You only have to look at that century of working together to understand how that trust has evolved.
Australia and the United States have fought together
in every major conflict, including from the First World
War, the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia,
Iraq, Afghanistan and, now, back in Iraq and over Syria.
As part of that, we have the formal ANZUS [Australia,
New Zealand, United States Treaty] Alliance which,
over six decades, has become an important contribution to the peace, security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region in general.
How has the United States’ rebalance to the Pa
cific affected your country’s defense posture?
GILMORE: Australia absolutely welcomes and supports the critical role the United States has taken in
ensuring the stability of the Indo-Pacific region over a
very long period. The levels of security and the stability we seek would just simply not be achievable without
the ongoing presence of the United States. We see the
rebalance as an essential ingredient into preserving the
stability and the security that characterizes the region.
One of the demonstrative aspects of that in more
recent times is the force posture initiatives that were
agreed to by President [Barack] Obama and then-Prime
Minister of Australia [Julia] Gillard in 2011. Australia
has played a strong and significant part in working
toward the full implementation of those initiatives.
A focus of the moment is on achieving a full U.S.
Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force, which totals
about 2,500 personnel and their equipment, rotating
annually through Australia for a six-month period that
is anchored to the Northern Australian dry season.
We’re also working now on expanding air force cooperation where we expect more rotations of U.S. aircraft
through Northern Australia and an increased combined training and exercise regime. There is also consideration of building on what is already very healthy
naval cooperation developed over many years. In the
years ahead, we see enhanced training and a broader
and deeper exercise regime being put in place.
Has the U.S. Marine Corps rotational deploy
ment to the Darwin area proved a satisfactory
GILMORE: Yes, very satisfactory indeed. Across the five
rotations to date, the force size variety and complexity
of the training opportunities have all been developed.
It started as a relatively small force of around 200-250
in its initial iteration and, this year, that has grown to
about 1,250 with some supporting Marine air elements.
What concerns does Australia have about the
Chinese military buildup, particularly in the
South China Sea?
GILMORE: Australia has a very legitimate interest
in the maintenance of both peace and stability and
respect for international law, for freedom of trade, and
freedom of navigation and overflight across the South
China Sea. Like the United States, we don’t take sides
in competing territorial claims, but at the same time,
Australia doesn’t accept actions or behaviors which are
not in accordance with the United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea.
We are concerned by the increasing militarization
that we’re witnessing in the South China Sea. Australia
has routinely called for all of the claimants, not just
China, to exercise self-restraint and to halt their
respective land reclamation and construction and, also,
the militarization that has been evidenced recently.
Do Australian forces conduct freedom of navi
GILMORE: Yes. The Australian government certainly
supports the rights of all states including, of course,
the United States, to exercise freedom of navigation