Australian warships will join the UK naval in military exercises to be held in the Asia Pacific in a show of force to China, reports say.
Two Royal Australian Navy frigates will join the British strike group, including the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, in drills through the South China Sea within weeks, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussed closer defence security ties in the region during his meeting with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G7 summit in England on the weekend.
In the South China Sea, China’s sweeping territorial claims have clashed with those of its neighbours, which accuse Beijing of militarising one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.
China figured largely in the G7 summit agenda and the resulting pledges on action to tackle Beijing’s growing influence is a win for Australia, 9News political editor Chris Uhlmann says.
Mr Morrison, who attended the G7 summit in the UK, had been pushing for tougher measures against what the Federal Government says are Chinese trade threats.
“Last time around China wasn’t mentioned, this time it gets four mentions in the final statement by the G7,” he told Today.
“It talks about the origins and transparency around COVID-19, it talks about unfair trade practices and human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and talks about freedom in the Indo-Pacific and concerns over the East China and South China Seas, all language Australia’s been using for a long time.”
China imposed trade sanctions against Australian exporters after relations between Beijing and Canberra plummeted over the last year.
Exports including coal, barley, beef, lobster and timber were hit with tariffs and other punitive measures.
In its final communique, the G7 group said it would “consult on collective approaches to challenging non-market policies and practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy”.
The leaders also said they would promote their values by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Xinjiang, where Beijing is accused of committing serious human rights abuses against the Uighur minority, and in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong.
During their three-day summit in southwest England, the G-7 leaders also sought to convey that the club of wealthy democracies — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US — is a better friend to poorer nations than authoritarian rivals such as China.
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