US Marines have begun to touch down in Darwin, in Australia’s tropical north, as the first of some 1,250 “stand ready to fight” against North Korea amid warnings that Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program is a “serious threat” to Canberra. The deployment will see the largest US aircraft contingent to Australia in peacetime history, Reuters reports, adding that the 25-year annual deployment program was launched by former US President Barack Obama back in 2011 as part of America’s ‘pivot’ to Asia. During the six-month deployment, US Marines will conduct exercises with Australian troops and will also visit Chinese forces.

The US Marines’ arrival comes as Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop voiced mounting concerns over North Korea’s nuclear activities. Pyongyang is striving for nuclear weapons and “has a clear ambition to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload as far as the US,” Bishop said according to the ABC. “That would mean Australia would be in reach so unless it is prevented from doing so, it will be a serious threat to the peace and stability of our region, and that is unacceptable,” she added. READ MORE