Senator John McCain visits Australia to reinforce US alliance
31 May 2017
John McCain, the 80-year-old chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Republican Party presidential candidate, flew into Australia on Monday. The purpose of his visit was to engage in discussions on Asia-Pacific security issues with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the foreign and defence ministers, as well as to meet with prominent representatives of the Australian corporate and political establishment.
McCain arrived against the backdrop of a steady build-up toward war on the Korean Peninsula, a provocative “freedom-of-navigation” operation by the US Navy challenging Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea, and the voicing of differences with the US by major European powers, especially Germany.
To an extent, the senator solidarised himself with the disquiet in Australian ruling circles over the state of affairs in US politics and its impact in Australia. A wing of the Australian establishment is primarily concerned with protecting the country’s major economic interests in Asia, particularly with China, its largest trading partner. This layer has seized on the nationalist economic policies and political volatility of the Trump administration to step up their calls for Australia to distance itself from the US alliance.
What McCain said in private to the Turnbull government is not known. His public statements, however, could be characterised as a combination of appeals and warnings to the Australian ruling class not to deviate from its strategic and military alignment with the US. He indicated that American policy would not, in the final analysis, be decided by Donald Trump and at least implied that moves are underway that may result in the…