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Aussie Deputy PM Claims China Starting 'Process of Encircling Australia'

© AFP 2023 / TORSTEN BLACKWOODThe national flags of Australia and China
The national flags of Australia and China  - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.05.2022
While both China and the Solomon Islands have rejected speculation that the new security pact between them would lead to a Chinese base in the Pacific nation, these concerns continue to dominate the national security debate in Australia ahead of a federal vote on 21 May. The Solomon Islands lies around 2,000 km from Australia's north-eastern coast.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce claimed on Wednesday that Beijing is “starting a process of encircling Australia”. He made the remark while delivering an address at the National Press Club in Canberra.

“It is quite obvious through their desire to have military bases that they are starting a process of encircling Australia and that there is a wish, at the very least, to intimidate, or worse, to supplicate Australia”, stated Joyce, while referring to the security cooperation agreement between China and the Solomon Islands unveiled last month. “The military expansion of China is the biggest issue before us without a shadow of a doubt".

Joyce, who leads the National Party, has also pointed out that the “positioning of strategic forces” to Australia’s north by the country’s adversaries wasn’t a recent tactic, as he harked back to World War II, when the Solomon Islands turned into a major war theatre.

“China is now utilising the same tactical positioning and it is an imperative in this campaign that the Australian people are fully aware of this”, Joyce stated. “This is not alarmism. It is reality that we have to be awake to”.

Between 1942 and 1945, Imperial Japanese troops set up a presence in the then British protectorate. According to several accounts, the aim of the Japanese was to interdict supply lines from the Indian Ocean towards Australia and New Zealand, both of them American allies.
The Japanese occupation of the Solomon Islands ended in 1945, when the former Axis power was driven out by US-led allied forces after fierce fighting between the two sides.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that a potential military base under the security agreement between Beijing and Honiara would constitute a "red line" for Canberra and Washington.
Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the US State Department, has also said that the US would “very naturally respond” to the establishment of a “de facto permanent military presence, power projection capabilities, or a military installation” by China on the Solomon Islands.
Beijing has on several occasions rejected the idea that it seeks to establish a military facility in the Solomon Islands.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on 25 April that the "so-called Chinese military base in Solomon Islands is completely fabricated with disinformation" by those harbouring "ulterior motives".

In another Foreign Ministry presser on 27 April, Wang slammed the US and Australia for their "double standards" on the Solomon Islands-China security pact.

"The US showed no openness and transparency when it conducted nuclear tests and dumped nuclear wastes in the South Pacific region and when AUKUS opened the Pandora’s Box of nuclear proliferation in the Asia-Pacific region”, Wang stated.

Among other things in the deputy PM's address, Joyce recounted that “as a government, we have brought about the AUKUS arrangement between the United States, the United Kingdom and ourselves".
The trilateral AUKUS pact among Australia, the UK, and the US was signed last September. Under the AUKUS arrangement, the US and UK will supply Australia with technology to manufacture advanced nuclear attack submarines (SSNs).
He also cited the four-nation Quad arrangement comprising Australia, India, Japan, and the US as “another example” of a “strong” partnership among “like-minded nations”.
Beijing has been critical of both the US-led groupings — AUKUS and the Quad — and has accused Washington of fomenting an “arms race” in the region as well as trying to create an "Asian NATO" through these arrangements.
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