Washington: After rejecting all claims of China on the South China Sea, the US and Australia have agreed on bolstering military ties to foil Beijing’s plans. The armed forces of both nations are to work jointly towards peace in the Indo-Pacific region and have inked a secret deal as per a joint statement released by the governments. At the same time, the two countries have hinted at initiating a new front against China alongside the Five Eyes, QUAD and TIP. As the US ad Australia enhance their defence ties, both nations seek to focus on hypersonic, missile defence and undersea warfare as also cybersecurity and space.
After the AUSMIN 2020 talks, the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the US and Australia held a joint press conference. The statement said, destabilising activities were occurring in the Indo-Pacific for the past few years and were a cause for concern for both nations. For the security of the Indo-Pacific and to maintain rules-based international order, both countries had resolved to expand cooperation. During the statement, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper warned that the recent naval drills that concluded in the South China Sea were a clear message for China. Also, the military cooperation with the US was explicitly meant to deter the destabilising activities in the Indo-Pacific, Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said as she warned China.
The joint statement from the US and Australia entirely focuses on the Indo-Pacific region. It includes the Indo-Pacific recovery, security, prosperity, regional coordination, and bilateral defence cooperation. It also touched the subjects of Hong Kong, Taiwan and abuse of Uyghurs and went on to highlight China’s policy of dominance. Moreover, without direct mention, the statements targeted China over Coronavirus, cyber-attacks, 5G technology and disinformation campaigns. In addition, Australia corroborated the US stand of bringing China in the new nuclear arms control deal.
In the joint statement, the US and Australia outright rejected all of China’s South China Sea claims. Both nations strongly stressed on the decision of the international body taken in 2016 as the final and only solution to the contestation. The statement also firmly supports the ASEAN statement recently released on the South China Sea and commends Vietnam on its stance. The consistent hardline stance of the US and Australia may only add to China’s woes.
As the two nations bolstered their military ties for Indo-Pacific security, they signed a classified statement called the Principles on Alliance Defense Cooperation and Force Posture Priorities. As per the agreement, a Force Posture Working Group, which would determine the military deployments for US and Australia in the Indo-Pacific, was established. Australia’s Darwin military base is to remain the defence coordination centre for the nations and the US will be building a Strategic Military Fuel Reserve here. Nevertheless, Australia has avoided taking a firm stand on independent deployments and campaigns in the South China Sea. The country has indicated it would deliberate on the matter with its other allies and then confirm policy on it.
A severe reaction has emerged from China against the US and Australia, as the countries are expanding Indo-Pacific cooperation and have reprimanded Beijing. China has issued remarks showering criticism against the two nations and said, ‘The allegations levelled against China over the South China Sea and other issues are baseless. The US-Australia statement is an interference in China’s internal affairs. Any attempts to pressurise China will never be successful.’