SYDNEY • Australia and the United States began their biggest ever joint military exercises yesterday, a show of force, largely at sea, aimed at sending a message both to allies and potential foes, including China.
The exercises, involving 33,000 US and Australian troops on board battleships equipped with strike jets, come as tension over China's more assertive activity, particularly in the disputed South China Sea, has raised fears of confrontation.
When asked how he thought China would view the exercises, Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, said the size of the deployment was intended as a signal. "I'm pleased about that message it sends our friends, allies, partners and potential adversaries," he told reporters on board the USS Bonhomme Richard.
Sydney University's politics and foreign policy professor James Curran said the exercises showed the close military ties between the US and Australia, but could worry China. "China will be concerned if it looks like containment - when you have Australia, the United States and others trying to gang up on China," Prof Curran said.
The exercises will go on for a month in Australian territorial waters and will include training in land and air operations.