Australia, US to Invite China to War Games
By Phil Mercer
03 September 2009
Australia and the United States will invite China to take part in joint military exercises to help ease fears about an arms race in the Asia-Pacific region.
Ties between Australia and China have been strained over concerns about Beijing's military expansion and the precarious nature of trade negotiations.
As a way of soothing tensions, Australian and U.S. defense officials have agreed to approach the Chinese about taking part in joint military exercises.
Admiral Timothy Keating, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, told a Sydney newspaper that talks with Beijing were a positive sign that China was willing to cooperate in the plan. Keating also expressed hope that any joint exercise would help the U.S. and its allies better understand China's reasons for boosting its weapons capabilities.
The U.S. is reportedly worried that some of China's military ambitions do not appear to be peaceful.
Andrew Davies from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute thinks that closer military sides will benefit all three countries.
"It gives each side confidence in the ability of the other to act professionally and it also teaches each side how the other tends to operate, which can reduce the opportunity for accidents and misunderstandings," he said.
China's ambassador to Australia, Zhang Junsai, has welcomed the prospect of joint army and navy exercises as a way of ensuring regional stability and peace.
Tensions between Australia and China have intensified recently over Canberra's decision to grant a visa to an exiled ethnic Uighur activist and the arrest in Beijing of an Australian mining executive accused of infringing trade secrets and bribery.
Zhang Junsai hopes the problems can be ironed out.
"Current difficulties in bilateral relations is something that China does not want to see. So, we hope Australia will join China to respect and accommodate each other's interests and our concerns," said Zhang.
Few details have been released about possible joint military exercises between China, the United States and Australia.
Reports have suggested they could include naval and land activities as well personnel exchanges. A U.S. military spokesman at Admiral Keating's headquarters in Hawaii said that no formal invitations to join an exercise had yet been extended to China.
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