Chinese warships cause surprise in Sydney Harbor

One of three Chinese warships is seen docked at Garden Island naval base in Sydney on June 3, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 03 June 2019
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Chinese warships cause surprise in Sydney Harbor

  • Since coming to power, President Xi Jinping has invested heavily in the People’s Liberation Army Navy — in a bid to project Chinese influence across the Pacific and beyond

SYDNEY: Australians enjoying a sunny winter morning were surprised by the sight of three Chinese warships steaming into to Sydney Harbor Monday, forcing the prime minister to reassure jittery residents.
Amid heightened concern about Beijing’s growing clout and military muscle flexing, the appearance of a Chinese flagged task group and around 700 sailors came as a surprise.
“It may have been a surprise to others, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise to the government,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison, trying to dampen concerns.
“We have known about that for some time,” he said of the visit during a trip to the Solomon Islands.
Morrison described it as a “reciprocal visit because Australian naval vessels have visited China.”
“They were returning after a counter drug trafficking operation in the Middle East.”
The vessels appeared to be the Kunlun Shan, a Yuzhao class landing ship; the Luoma Lake replenishment ship and Xuchang, a modern frigate that is believed to be fitted with surface-to-air and anti-submarine missile systems.
The timing of their visit has also been questioned.
It comes on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the violent suppression of Tiananmen protests.
Then, the regime gunned down hundreds of its own citizens and jailed thousands for demanding political change and an end to state corruption.
The sailing also comes just days after it was revealed that a Chinese warship had recently confronted an Australian vessel in the South China Sea and Aussie helicopter pilots had been targeted with lasers.
“I think any reading into timing could be subject to a bit of overanalysis,” said Morrison.
Since coming to power, President Xi Jinping has invested heavily in the People’s Liberation Army Navy — in a bid to project Chinese influence across the Pacific and beyond.
“Chinese naval visits to Australia have more typically been a lone frigate, not a task group with an amphibious assault ship and 700 personnel,” Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at Australian National University, tweeted.
“Sydney is hardly a convenient stopover on their way home from the Gulf of Aden. What’s the story here?“


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.