Washington/Canberra : Six Australian warships have been sent to the Pacific Ocean and the ‘South China Sea’ region for military exercise. In the last three decades, this has turned out to be the largest exercise conducted by Australia in this marine region. This exercise initiated by Australia is believed to be a part of the policy designed by the US along with its allied nations to restrict the ambitions of China in the ‘South China Sea’. In spite of the fact, that China has been Australia’s largest trading partner nation, this decision taken by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his government has attracted attention.
Instances of tussels between Australia and China in the past few months have been coming forward. Tensions between the two nations are on the rise over instances of Chinese investments in big projects in Australia, over China funding the Members of Parliament in Australia, over Chinese interference in the educational and cultural sectors and the use of watch boats by the Chinese for surveillance during Australia’s military exercise. Australia’s Prime Minister, its Defense Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have constantly expressed concern over this growing dominance of China and have assumed a hostile stance.
It has been observed that after China’s refusal to accept the decision of the International Arbitration Court on the issue of ‘South China Sea’, this stance of Australia has been further hardened. Australia, which had earlier taken a soft and not to hurt China approach on this issue, has over the last few months invited US to openly take an active stand in the ‘South China Sea‘ and the Pacific Ocean. In spite of incurring China’s wrath on this, and going by the latest moves, Australia seems firm on its stand.
President Donald Trump and his administration have initiated strong efforts to restrain China’s aggressiveness in the ‘South China Sea’. As a part of this, an independent front has been formulated which includes India, Japan and Australia. Along with US, these three nations will jointly take steps to curb China in the ‘South China Sea’. Meetings and discussions at various levels are in progress amongst these four nations and it is clear that there is an unanimity amongst them over this issue.
It could be said that the decision to send six advanced warships for exercise in the region near the ‘South China Sea’ is the most daring step taken by Australia. The Australian Minister of Defense had strongly approved the deployment and the exercises of the warships. Marise Payne, Australia’s Minister of Defense said that the exercise will demonstrate the real capacity of Australian defense forces. She made it clear that the military exercise besides anti-submarine campaigns, include humanitarian and disaster management operations.
Whilst Australia’s military exercise was being conducted near the ‘South China Sea‘, its Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, was in US visiting the Japanese Foreign Minister and reported to have had discussions on the issue of ‘South China Sea‘. Prior to this, Australia’s Minister of Defense met the US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis.