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US, Australia to seek military exercises with China
Published on: 2009-09-03
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CANBERRA — The United States and Australia will invite China to take part in three-way military exercises amid concerns arising from Beijing's military build-up, reports said Thursday.

The top US military commander in Asia, Admiral Timothy Keating, believed joint exercises would improve relations between the nations and increase stability in the region, Fairfax newspapers reported.

The report said Keating and Australian Defence Force chief Angus Houston met this week and agreed to put the proposal to China "at the earliest opportunity."

"We are anxious to engage with them," Keating told Fairfax. "We want to understand much better than we do now China's intentions."

He said that China's public statements on its defence plans were "less than fulfilling" and urged China: "Don't stand in isolation in the Asia Pacific."

Keating said the proposed exercises would start with small-scale naval and land activities, followed by personnel exchanges.

Asked if strengthening military ties would upset regional powers such as India, Japan and South Korea, Keating said: "We can control the rheostat on this and invite nations to observe and participate.

"It is a fairly simple thing to do."

The United States has repeatedly raised concerns about the size of China's military build-up, with a Pentagon report earlier this year warning Beijing's pursuit of sophisticated weaponry was altering Asia's military balance.

The Australian defence department told Fairfax that it had had begun pursuing military-to-military ties with China in recent years.

"(We) place a high priority on engaging China on matters of shared security interest," a spokeswoman said.

"Our ability to speak frankly on issues such as China's military modernisation is an indication of the growing maturity of our relationship."

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