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Perched atop the continent, closer to Jakarta than Sydney, Darwin has long been an outpost to Australia’s civilized south. It’s the capital of the vast Northern Territory, twice the size of Texas, with a population of just 230,000. Wild, and sparse, a resources boom and fresh military and political interest from abroad means Darwin is turning into the late bloomer of the Antipodes.

The city welcomed President Barack Obama last year, who announced it would host an expanded American presence in the Asia Pacific. Each year, 2,500 US Marines will use…



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