Australia planning new port in north for use by US Marines: report

US Marines during joint military drills between the United States and Australia (AFP Photo/JASON REED)

Sydney (AFP) - Australia is planning to build a new deep-water port on its northern coast able to accommodate US Marine deployments as part of efforts to counter China's growing presence in the region, the ABC reported Monday.

The national broadcaster quoted multiple defence and government officials as saying the facility would be about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory, which controversially leased its own port to a Chinese operator in 2015.

The Darwin port already includes military facilities and hosts visiting US ships, but the ABC said the new port would offer large amphibious warships a more discreet and less busy base of operations.

US Marine units of more than 2,000 troops regularly rotate through Darwin as part of the close military cooperation between the two allies.

Both Australia and the United States have been building up their military presence across the western Pacific to counter moves by China to gain influence across the strategically vital region, notably by creating armed outposts on disputed islands in the South China Sea.

As part of that effort, Washington and Canberra recently announced plans to build a joint military base on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, northeast of Australia.

The ABC said the new Australian port at Glyde Point would include commercial and industrial operations in addition to facilities for military activities.

An announcement concerning the port could come in the next few weeks to coincide with the height of the bi-annual Talisman Sabre US-Australian military exercise in mid-July, ABC said.

The US consulate in Sydney declined to comment on the ABC report, and the Australian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for a response.