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Secret planning has begun for a new port facility just outside Darwin which could eventually help US Marines operate more readily in the Indo-Pacific.
Precise - Details - Defence - Government - Figures
Precise details remain tightly guarded but senior defence and federal government figures concede the proposal may risk angering China even though it's a commercial port, not a new military base.
Multiple officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have confirmed to the ABC the multi-use development would be in the Glyde Point area, roughly 40 kilometres north-east of Darwin's existing port.
Past - Location - Northern - Territory - Government
In the past, the location has been earmarked by the Northern Territory Government as a possible future industrial port site given its relatively deep waters, but funding arrangements for the yet-to-be announced project remain unclear.
Darwin port, which was controversially leased to a Chinese company in 2015, has existing defence facilities such as a multi-user barge ramp, but the new proposed facility would have the additional advantages of being less busy and less visible.
Port - Warships - Australia - Landing - Helicopter
If approved, the new port could eventually be able to accommodate large amphibious warships such as Australia's Landing Helicopter Docks, and American vessels such as the USS Wasp, which recently arrived in Sydney.
Strategic experts believe a new deep-water port would be ideally suited for the more than 2,000 US Marines and their equipment during regular rotations through the Top End.
Americans - Indo-Pacific - Competition - China - Rory
"The Americans are clearly not withdrawing from the Indo-Pacific, whether it's because of their strategic competition with China or more generally," said Rory Medcalf from the Australian National University.
"It's clear the Americans intend to stay in the region to reinforce their presence, to reinforce the alliance, and so a facility like this would be quite a logical development I think."
ABC - Defence - Department - US - Embassy
The ABC approached the Defence Department and the US Embassy in Canberra for comment, but both are yet to respond to detailed questions on timing and costs.
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