Baku, October 29 AZERTAC
Australia and China are set to proceed with planned joint military exercises next week, with the Coalition indicating the US "freedom of navigation" patrol through the South China Sea that angered Beijing has had no effect on the timing.
According to the Guardian, Washington infuriated Beijing by sailing the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of the disputed Spratly archipelago on Tuesday in a challenge to China's territorial claims.
Australia's defence minister, Marise Payne, confirmed on Thursday that planned military exercises with China were set to proceed. This was a rejection of some media reports that they had been delayed.
But in a sign that the government was keeping its options open for future patrol operations, Payne added that Australia had "a legitimate interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea".
The rise of China is key strategic challenge for Australia. The government has sought to bolster its economic ties with China, striking a free trade agreement that triggered a political dispute in Canberra this year, but also joined the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country trade pact that does not include China.
The US president, Barack Obama, and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, addressed their countries' plans for the Asia-Pacific region when they visited Australia in November last year for the G20 summit.