South China Sea tensions threaten Australia's interests; Australia seeks tighter alliance with the U.S.

By @preciousvsilva on
Members of the visit, board, search and seizure team assigned to the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill climb aboard the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon
Members of the visit, board, search and seizure team assigned to the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill climb aboard the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon from a rigid-hull inflatable boat during a boarding exercise in the Pacific Ocean in this September 20, 2011 handout photo obtained by Reuters May 15, 2012. The Yukon and the USS Essex, a US Navy amphibious assault vessel, collided off the coast of California May 16, 2012 due to a steering malfunction during a refueling operation, damaging both vessels but causing no injuries, the Navy said in a statement. No one was injured and no fuel was spilled, the Navy said. Reuters/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Grandin

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews claimed that South China Sea tensions can potentially threaten Australia's interest. As a result, the minister has also promised to boost the country's security alliance with the United States for the years to come, mitigating any possible instability fuelling from China's and other Asia-Pacific nations’ rise to power.

“Competing claims for territory and natural resources in the South China Sea will continue to be a source of tension in the region," the minister said in his speech last Thursday.

“Combined with growth in military capability, this backdrop has the potential to destabilise the region and threaten Australia’s interests.” He added.

Australia is trying to develop strategic ties with both Japan and the U.S. without isolating its largest trading partner, China. However, China continues to deploy large-scale reclamation efforts in South China Sea waters, drawing out contention from a number of Southeast Asian nations. These nations, in turn, host some of the most strategic shipping lines in the world.

"But growth in the region will be uneven and competition to exert more influence could generate instability," Andrews told business leaders during his speech. Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the  Philippines have overlapping interests and claims over the seas. A total of US$5 trillion (AU$7 trillion) worth of shipping trade and business are conducted in the area annually.

In its bid to strengthen ties, Australia allows U.S. naval visits. The country oversees many as 2,500 American marines in just the northern city of Darwin. In July, it also held one of the biggest war games with around 30,000 personnel participating, according to Bloomberg. The defence minister is preparing a white paper outlining how Australia will increase defence spending -- accounting to as much as 2 percent of the gross domestic product in ten years. Andrews said that the strategic ties with the U.S. “will be vital to achieving the government’s capability plans."

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