Navy chief flags greater military presence in south-west Pacific, hints Middle East withdrawal


Updated

September 08, 2018 10:46:03

Almost 30 years of continuous Australian maritime operations in the Middle East could soon wind down as concerns grow over China’s rapid rise in this region, prompting a rethink of defence priorities.

Key points:

  • Vice-Admiral Mike Noonan hints joint maritime operations with the US in the Arabian Gulf could soon wind down
  • Since 1990, Australia has completed more than 60 maritime deployments to the Middle East
  • The comments come as the sea phase of “Exercise Kakadu”, Australia’s largest joint maritime drills, gets underway

In his first public comments as Chief of Navy, Vice-Admiral Mike Noonan has outlined his strategic vision, flagging a greater Australian naval presence in the south-west Pacific.

“We will continue to evolve where we operate and expand where we operate based on where Australia’s national interests are best served,” Vice-Admiral Noonan said.

The Vice-Admiral, who assumed command of the Royal Australian Navy in July, has also hinted long-standing joint maritime operations with the US in the Arabian Gulf could soon wind down.

“I think that we’ve had a distinguished time in the Middle East, we’ve learned a lot operating there for almost three decades,” he said.

“The lessons we have learned from operating in waters far from home are being applied equally as we help our own very close neighbours and we provide capacity within our own navy to do more within the region.”

Since 1990, Australia has completed more than 60 maritime deployments to the Middle East on counter-terrorism and counter piracy operations.

Chinese warship joins ‘Exercise Kakadu’ war games

In recent months, senior Australian Defence officials have become increasingly concerned over Beijing’s growing influence in the Pacific, particularly over nations such as Vanuatu and Tonga.

Former chief of army Peter Leahy, now the Director of National Security at the University of Canberra, has welcomed the Vice-Admiral’s views.

“I think the Admiral’s comments about the Middle East and the navy are sensible and need to be considered very carefully,” Mr Leahy told the Saturday AM program.

“Our region is more important than the Middle East and other regions where we’ve been active for so long.”

Vice-Admiral Noonan’s comments come as the sea phase of “Exercise Kakadu”, Australia’s largest joint maritime drills, get underway this weekend off the coast of Darwin.

This year 27 nations are taking part, including China which has sent a People’s Liberation Army naval warship to Australian waters to participate in the exercises for the first time.

In April, the ABC revealed that three Australian warships had been challenged by the Chinese military while transiting through the hotly contested South China Sea.

Topics:

unrest-conflict-and-war,

government-and-politics,

australia,

china

First posted

September 08, 2018 05:04:58



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