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China warns Australia after naval drill in South China Sea

By
Elizabeth Shim
Australia’s navy is being rebuked by China following a large-scale drill in the South China Sea. File Photo by Francis R. Malasig/EPA-EFE
Australia’s navy is being rebuked by China following a large-scale drill in the South China Sea. File Photo by Francis R. Malasig/EPA-EFE

Dec. 15 (UPI) -- China issued a warning to Australia after Australian troops staged a large-scale naval exercise in the South China Sea.

The advisory from Beijing comes at a time when China is making swift progress on fortifying its military base in the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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Taiwanese daily China Times reported Friday Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy commander Shen Jinlong met with Australian Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, and told Barrett the drills were not in line with promoting peace and stability in the region.

China's admonishment of the Australian navy comes as a year of heightened tensions draws to a close, owing to perceptions in Australia Beijing is buying influence among politicians in Canberra.

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According to Chinese state tabloid Global Times, Shen specifically said the presence of 1,200 Australian servicemen aboard six naval vessels during a drill in September 2017 had stoked concerns in Beijing.

China, meanwhile, has not stopped building sophisticated military facilities on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea.

According to AMTI, China has enjoyed a "constructive year" in base building, as the United States has taken a less critical approach to Beijing's activities in the maritime region in 2017.

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There are now "permanent facilities" across the islands, "ranging from underground storage areas and administrative buildings to large radar and sensor arrays," according to CSIS.

Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys witnessed the most significant development, with construction taking place across 27 acres of new land.

Underground storage for ammunition, hangars and missile shelters were also built on neighboring Mischief Reef, the study says.

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China has been building up its military near the Doklam plateau at the India border, according to Indian media.

In another area where the borders of India, China and Bhutan meet, Beijing has deployed troops in the Chumbi valley.

China wants to prepare for any contingencies on the Doklam plateau, according to analyst Rohan Mukherjee, the South China Morning Post reported.

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