November 16, 2011

China questions US-Australia military cooperation

Reuters | Nov 16, 2011, 02.40PM IST

BEIJING: China questioned on Wednesday a plan by the United States to deepen military cooperation with Australia, saying it was open to discussion on whether strengthening military alliances was beneficial to the international community.

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday said US troop deployments in Australia would help maintain the security architecture in Asia and help with the response to humanitarian and security issues in the region.

The move, however, may be seen by Beijing as further evidence of Washington's attempt to encircle China, with US bases in Japan and Korea and now troops in Australia.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin, asked about the proposed deepening of military cooperation, said China stood for "peaceful development and cooperation".

"We also believe that the external policies of countries in the region should develop along these lines," Liu told a regular news briefing.

Liu added that "whether strengthening and expanding a military alliance is in the common interests of the region's countries and the international community is worthy of discussion", especially amid a gloomy international economic situation and with each country seeking cooperation.

Liu sidestepped a question on whether China objected to the US-Australia agreement, saying Beijing, like Australia and the United States, valued improved cooperation.

"We believe that there should be real actions to further strengthen cooperation with the two sides," Liu said.

"As for using the form of a military alliance, China has its own concepts of friendly cooperation with all countries. Put simply, the path of peaceful development to achieve the shared aspirations of the international community. China never engages in military alliances."

Liu noted that Obama has said he welcomed a strong and prosperous and stable China, adding: "We also hope that the United States' words and actions will be consistent."

The winding down of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has opened the door to greater US attention to simmering tension over the South China Sea, a shipping lane for more than $5 trillion in annual trade that the United States wants to keep open.

China claims the whole of the South China Sea although Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan,Malaysia and Brunei hold rivals claims to at least parts of it. Tension occasionally flares up into maritime stand-offs.

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