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U.S.-Australia Military Pact: Is This About China?

The U.S. is expanding its military presence in Australia's Northern Territory. But while officials deny it, the move is seen as a dig at China.

U.S.-Australia Military Pact: Is This About China?
Australian Department of Defence

The U.S. is about to beef up its military presence in Australia. Talks between the two countries were full of promises of an enduring and cooperative partnership. 

In a nutshell, here's what's happening:

- By 2017, there'll be 2,500 U.S. troops in Australia. There are about 1,500 now.

- The 25-year agreement will see Australia join U.S. efforts on ballistic missile defense shield technology for the region. (Video via Royal Australian Air Force)

​But the "why" in all this is the interesting part. Officially, you'll hear the reason for this cooperation and coordination is simply about aligning interests, which is exactly what Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told ABC News Australia.

JULIE BISHOP: "It's about working closely with the United States to ensure that we can work on regional peace and security."

"Regional peace and security" — which is largely seen as a dig at China, which the U.S. and its allies have accused of acting provocatively in territorial disputes over the South China Sea. (Video via Arirang)

Case in point: Time notes the agreement "comes at a time when China has been testing the waters in the region."

But you won't find U.S. or Australian officials admitting this has anything to do with providing a counterweight to China. In fact, they're outright denying it. 

Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: "We welcome the rise of China as a global partner. ... We are not seeking conflict and confrontation."

Still, you'll see headlines like this from RT, characterizing the agreement as the U.S. and Australia "encircling China."

So what does China have to say?

Interestingly, not much at all. There was no mention of the agreement in any of the top stories on China's state-run Xinhua Tuesday morning.

As for Australia, the enhanced military cooperation is largely portrayed as a positive development. 

The Australian notes: "Australian governments have seen a growing US military presence as crucial support to our own relatively small military given regional stability in the East China Sea and South China Sea."

And why Australia? The Wall Street Journal reports the country provides a safe distance from China in the event of a missile strike. 

This video contains images from Department of Foreign Affairs Australia and the U.S. Department of State