US reportedly considering stationing B-1 bombers in Australia, conducting more B-52 missions

The U.S. is reportedly in talks with Australia about housing long-range bombers that would be within striking distance of the South China Sea, a move that would increase the tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force, told Reuters Wednesday the deployments could include B-1 bombers and an expansion of B-52 bomber missions. However, Pickart noted that talks between the two countries were preliminary.

"These bomber rotations provide opportunities for our airmen to advance and strengthen our regional alliances and provide (Pacific Air Forces) and U.S. Pacific Command leaders with a credible global strike and deterrence capability to help maintain peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," Pickart told Reuters.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declined to comment on the matter when approached by reporters.

"I can just assure you that everything we do in this area is very carefully determined to ensure that our respective military forces work together as closely as possible in our mutual national interests," he said.

Should the U.S. and Australia reach an agreement, it is sure to add more pressure on China.

"Cooperation among relevant counties should protect regional peace and stability, and not target the interests of third parties," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a briefing.

Washington sent an aircraft carrier and five escort ships to the South China Sea last week. The dispatch sent a signal to China that the U.S. Navy will continue to conduct freedom of navigation patrols even as China continues to “militarize” the artificial reefs, defense officials told Fox News.

The possibility of the U.S. stationing B-1 bombers in Australia was broached last year, but Australia’s Defense Minister said they had misspoken.

The U.S. conducts B-52 missions from Australia periodically, but doesn’t fly any B-1s from there.

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