Australian foreign minister's China talks dominated by US military ties
AFP May 16, 2012, 12:05 am TWN
SYDNEY -- Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr's first visit to China has been dominated by concerns over Canberra's ties to Washington with Beijing criticizing their close military alliance, reports said Tuesday.
Carr, who became Australia's top diplomat in March, said the worries were raised during three high-level meetings — including with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.
"The most objective way of saying it is my three Chinese partners invited me to talk about enhanced Australian defense cooperation with the United States," Carr said in the Sydney Morning Herald.
"I think their view can be expressed that the time for Cold War alliances have long since past.
"Australia's view of course is that an American presence in the Asia-Pacific has helped underpin stability there and created a climate in which the peaceful economic development — including that of China — has been able to occur."
In a visit to Australia last November, U.S. President Barack Obama announced Washington would increase its military presence in Australia as part of a renewed emphasis on the Asia-Pacific, to the irritation of Beijing.
The first batch of 2,500 U.S. Marines to be deployed in the country arrived in the northern city of Darwin in April in a move China said was proof of a "Cold War mentality."
Apart from the Marines, the U.S. military only has a limited deployment in long-standing ally Australia, including the Pine Gap Joint Defense Facility spy station near the desert town of Alice Springs.
But as part of the expansion of military ties, Australia has indicated it may also allow the United States to use its territory to operate long-range spy drones.
Washington could also reportedly station aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered attack submarines in the western Australian city of Perth.
Carr said he was also keen on closer military cooperation with China, a major trading partner of Australia and a keen consumer of its resources.
"An extended underpinning of my conversation with the (People's Liberation Army) was that our defense cooperation has been very good and we would both like to see more of it," he said.
"Defense cooperation is a confidence building mission. The more we understand about one another's approach to defense the less likely we are to misinterpret what the other side does."
Carr is due to leave China on Wednesday for Japan.
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