Australia acknowledges China’s key player status in Asia

COLOMBO ( The Island/ANN ) - Australia has  acknowledged  China's emergence as a key player in Asia.

Australia’s Acting High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Jon Philp responding to a question at a press conference in Colombo on Friday, on his  thoughts about  China’s growing influence in Asia, said it would be correct to say  that the socialist nation, was now a key player in the region.
He emphasised that China was an extremely important partner and Australia had maintained good bilateral ties, which included trade exchanges.
"Good relations with China are welcome",   Philp added.       

China now describes itself as " Socialist with Chinese Characteristics."

Philp said that Australia’s largest ever defence engagement with Sri Lanka, would  commence this Saturday (yesterday) and go on till March 29, when a Joint Task Group comprising Australian naval, army and air force assets and personnel visits Sri Lanka, as part of the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPE-19) multinational programme.

"This would be Australia’s largest ever defence engagement with Sri Lanka, with more   than 1,000 Australian personnel involved in IPE 19 and  a valuable opportunity for both countries to improve cooperation and familiarity with one another’s Defence Forces and explore opportunities to further promote regional stability", he noted adding that there  would be a range of activities undertaken with the Sri Lankan armed services in Sri Lanka and the surrounding waters

."It will encompass disaster assistance planning, multinational naval manoeuvres and military training activities. But our cooperation long predates this. IPE19 takes place on a foundation of over 70 years of close diplomatic relations, underpinned by the warm relationship between our people."

Philp said that the Australian ships would  undertake port visits in Colombo and Trincomalee and Australian Air Force assets would  visit Mattala .The Joint Task Group would comprise the flagship of the Australian Navy -  HMAS Canberra, which is an amphibious Helicopter Landing Dock and HMAS Newcastle - a Guided Missile Frigate which would  visit Colombo during March 23 to 30.  HMAS Parramatta, an anti-submarine frigate and HMAS Success, a replenishment ship would be visiting Trincomalee between March 23 to 27.

Australia’s vision for the Indo-Pacific  was a region that was secure, open, prosperous and resilient. As Indo-Pacific nations, Australia and Sri Lanka  shared interests in unimpeded trade and secure sea lines of communication and maritime approaches in the Indian Ocean, he observed.

The acting High Commissioner said that Sri Lanka   was a partner of choice for Australia in the Indo-Pacific as both countries were   increasingly likeminded on maritime security and Indian Ocean issues. He pointed out that Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper acknowledged Sri Lanka’s location on a vital maritime corridor in the Indian Ocean.

Philp said that after leaving Sri Lanka, IPE19 ships and assets would visit other regional partners such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Australian Defence Advisor  and Airforce Group Captain  Sean Unwin said  that    Colombo would  be the  main  focus for  Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPE-19) multinational visit, during which Sri Lankan military personnel manning aircraft would  receive training onboard the HMAS Canberra .

Outlining the activities that would take place in  and around the Colombo area during the visit week, he revealed that there would be a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response Exchange with the Sri Lankan authorities including an ‘At Sea day’ -  for HMAS Canberra to demonstrate the capabilities its amphibious platform could bring to HADR operations in the Indo-Pacific region.

Unwin said that the other engagements would include a Peacekeeping exchange with Sri Lanka’s Institute for Peace Support Operations Training, an  Australian Defence Industry reception on board HMAS Canberra, Maritime surveillance related training opportunities for the Sri Lankan Navy and Air Force and a number of social engagements, both formal and informal, between IPE personnel, the Sri Lankan Tri-Services and the Sri Lankan public.

Activities  in Trincomalee,  would  focus on  Navy-to-Navy engagement between the two countries, with a particular focus on interoperability between clearance diving teams focusing on explosive ordinance disposal counter-IED techniques, he explained.  "This is a great opportunity for our two countries to engage on a number of capabilities and issues, in order to broaden the defence relationship and build a stepping-stone for greater engagement in the future."

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