China to join naval drills in Australia despite tensions

Sydney: China will participate in multilateral naval exercises due to begin in August in Australia, despite tensions between the two countries, officials said here on Wednesday.

“China is expected to participate in a range of activities including passage exercises, inter-ship communications and replenishment activities and sea-training manoeuvres,” the Australian Ministry of Defence was cited as saying by Efe news.

The ministry also clarified that “there are no plans for China to participate in live-fire activities” of these military drills, which they see as an “opportunity to engage with regional navies to encourage greater cooperation”.

The military manoeuvres — called Kakadu — from August 30 to mid-September will bring together 27 nations as participants or observers off the coasts of the northern city of Darwin.

China is Australia’s main trading partner despite bilateral tensions due to Canberra’s criticism of the Chinese military presence in the South China Sea and suspicions of espionage and political interference by Beijing in Australian domestic affairs.

Australian defence in its statement reaffirmed its commitment towards “maintaining a long-term constructive relationship with China, founded on shared interests and mutual respect”.