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Report: Australia discussing alternative to China's 'Belt and Road'

By Elizabeth Shim
Prime Minister Turnbull of Australia may be seeking an alternative to a Chinese-led infrastructure investment project. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/e2e701474140ea33e01bc6c4f3823421/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Prime Minister Turnbull of Australia may be seeking an alternative to a Chinese-led infrastructure investment project. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- China's "Belt and Road" initiative to build economic networks around the globe may be being challenged in Australia.

Canberra is in discussions with the United States, India and Japan with regards to an alternative "Belt and Road," the Australian Financial Review reported Sunday.

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But politicians in Australia could be divided over whether or not to join Beijing's gigantic multi-billion dollar infrastructure project.

Australia's opposition Labor politicians have said they are ready to participate in China's plans, and join the "increased embrace of Asia," according to AFR.

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Nearly 70 countries have already signaled an interest in joining China, including New Zealand and several European countries.

Australia's caution could be being encouraged by the United States, which wants to make investments that actually work, according to the Australian press report.

"China might build a port which, on its own is not economically viable. We could make it economically viable by building a road or rail line linking that port," AFR's U.S. government source said.

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Japan, one of the four nations who agreed to restore the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue that excludes China, has long been suspicious of Chinese motives.

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Experts in Japan warn the Chinese military could expand with the Beijing's network that include plans to build a "Polar Silk Road," the South China Morning Post recently reported.

"It is an open secret that the Chinese have long wanted to use the Arctic Ocean for military purposes," said Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University. "It would be naive for anyone to think they are purely motivated by economic considerations because they used a similar rationale to seize the South China Sea islands."

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