Australia-led military drills show tougher China stance: experts

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/7 0:18:39

Australia's largest military exercises in the Indo-Pacific region show it has toughened its stance toward China, especially on South China Sea issues, experts said.

An Australian Navy fleet left Sydney on Monday for its biggest military exercises since the 1980s, called Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2017.

Running from Monday to November 26, the exercises will focus on enhancing military cooperation with countries including Brunei, Cambodia, Micronesia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste, according to Australian defense ministry on Monday.

"Australia is strengthening its military network, an alliance that is US-centered," Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Australia keeps saying it won't take sides but in terms of military strategy, it has always been following the US, Chen added.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said the deployment, which was planned more than 12 months ago, is "part of ongoing efforts to enhance and develop strong positive relations" with regional countries' militaries.

It also shows that the Australian government has turned tough toward China strategically and on South China Sea issues. During the exercises, the Australian fleet will visit countries surrounding China, Chen said.

"Australia's behavior is for political purpose rather than military goal, because Australia's naval power is not enough to shake the stability of the region again, and even the US is getting tired of making trouble in the region," said an anonymous naval expert who used to served in the PLA Navy.

More than 1,200 Australian Defense Force personnel will participate in the exercises, with the Australian fleet.

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