US military men would appear to be singing from the same song sheet as Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith. Senior Defence Department official Robert Scher told Congress overnight that “we are not looking to establish a US base in Australia”. Smith was emphasising that on radio this morning: “We don’t have United States military bases in Australia and we are not proposing to”.

The influential Center for Strategic and International Studies has other ideas. It has proposed a base of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and manned and unmanned drones in Perth.

As Smith notes, this is not a US government document — merely the recommendations of an independent think tank. But congressional Republicans like the idea. As Harley Dennett reports for Crikey today, the idea of redeploying nuclear armoury to the Asia-Pacific has found solid support. Including among Tea Party members, who have a firm grip on Republican policy and could be even more powerful after the November election.

The CSIS says the US needn’t worry about the natives because there’s only “non-mainstream anti-Americanism prevalent among some elite circles”. Republicans may well put that to the test next year. And hand Smith a complex domestic and diplomatic challenge.

Peter Fray

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