China-Australia tensions erupt – Washington praises tough stance taken against Beijing

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Australia has taken a hard line stance against China with Prime Minister Scott Morrison warning conflict with Beijing could now not be ruled out. Like the UK, the state has also ordered the removal of Huawei kit from its own 5G network, causing US congressman Joe Courtney to praise Australia’s actions against the Chinese Communist Party. In glowing praise from the congressman who is also a member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee in Washington, Mr Courtney claimed the US must now follow in Australia’s footsteps.

He told The Sydney Morning Herald: “In terms of coming to grips with our own relationship with China, we have a lot to learn from Australia.

“It’s clear that Australia is still not spoiling for a fight – they’re just looking to create some space so that international norms can continue, which is really an end game that some of the China hawks in the US don’t quite see clearly.

“Australia, in some ways, is the voice that has the most value in terms of trying to remain balanced.”

The Democrat did also add Australia should have joined the US in its freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea earlier.

The US has upped manoeuvres in order to try to halt China’s territorial gains in the region.

Mr Morrison’s Government has so far resisted the move which would mean sending ships close to islands and territories now claimed by China.

Mr Courtney added: “To me, normalising safe passage – whether it’s for navy ships or commercial traffic – is really something that has to become a focus for all the countries who care about this.

“It shouldn’t just involve one navy.”

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Under China’s ‘nine-dash line’ policy, Beijing claims several island chains such as the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos.

This is due to China’s historical rights, the government has claimed.

However, to combat China’s growing presence, the US has sent several navy ships to conduct manoeuvres and freedom of navigation exercises.

This month, Austalia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds both flew to the US for high-level diplomatic talks.

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Meeting with Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, they agreed to increase military efforts in the region.

They also pledged to boost naval exercises in the South China Sea and develop technologies capable of combating against Beijing’s aggression in the waters.

Mr Pompeo has previously deemed China’s land claims in the region as illegal.

He has also vowed to stop China creating a naval empire in the region.

In support of the US and Australia, Japan too has claimed it will stand up to any aggression from Beijing.

Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono said: “Anyone who is trying to change the status quo by force needs to be forced to pay a high cost.

“Free and open maritime order in the South China Sea is as important as any other place and what happens there will concern the international community.”

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