Australia’s defense minister told the local newspaper that the government would take national interests into account in its review.
Defense Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed that his department is examining the ownership by a Chinese company of a strategically important port used as a base for the US Marines.
The National Security Committee in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Office had asked the Defense Department for advice on the property, Dutton said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald published on Sunday night. Asked whether the government was considering forced divestment, the minister said he would take national interests into account.
The move is likely to further increase tensions between Australia and its biggest trading partner China, which have nosedived since Morrison’s government called for a year ago for Beijing to allow investigators. independent workers in Wuhan to probe the origins of the coronavirus.
The agreement of the government of the Northern Territory in 2015 to sell a long-term lease at the port of Darwin to the Chinese company Landbridge Group has been criticized by security experts. This came four years after President Barack Obama struck an agreement to found approximately 2,500 Marines in Darwin, at the gateway to the Indo-Pacific.
China has criticized Australia’s decision last month to use new laws to quash the Belt and Road agreements with the Victoria state government. There has been growing speculation that Morrison could use the laws, passed in December, to remove long-term leases held by Chinese companies at the ports of Darwin and Newcastle.
“Regarding Darwin Harbor, if there is any advice I receive from the Defense Department or intelligence agencies that suggests there are national security risks there, then you will would expect the government to take action on this, ”Morrison said in a radio interview Friday.