The Australian Defense Minister explains to the local newspaper that the government would consider national interests in its review.
Defense Secretary Peter Dutton has confirmed that his department is reviewing the ownership of a Chinese company from a strategically important port that is used as a base for U.S. Marines.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cabinet’s national security committee had asked the defense department to advise on the property, Dutton said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald published on Sunday afternoon. Asked whether the government is reflecting on forced divestment, the minister said he would consider national interests.
This measure is likely to further increase tensions between Australia and its largest trading partner, China, which they have understood since the Morrison government’s call a year ago for Beijing to allow independent researchers in Wuhan to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. .
Security experts have criticized the Northern Territory government’s agreement in 2015 to sell a long-term lease in the port of Darwin to Chinese firm Landbridge Group. It came four years after President Barack Obama reached an agreement to establish some 2,500 Marines at Darwin, which is at the gates of the Indo-Pacific.
China has criticized Australia’s decision last month to use new laws to cancel belt and road agreements with the Victorian state government. It is increasingly speculated that Morrison could use the laws passed in December to remove long-term leases from Chinese companies in the ports of Darwin and Newcastle.
“In relation to the port of Darwin, if there is any advice it receives from the Department of Defense or intelligence agencies that suggests there are national security risks, I would expect the government to take action,” Morrison said. to a radio interview on Friday.