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China, Australia, NZ to Combine for Joint Maritime Drill
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China, Australia and New Zealand’s navies will come together in September near Australia for their first-ever joint maritime drill. This announcement came out after talks between Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and Australian counterpart Brendan Nelson on Monday.


Nelson revealed that Chinese vessels would visit Australia in September to carry out a "search-and-rescue exercise" with Australia and New Zealand, in order to promote "build trust and increase friendship."


Cao lauded the drill as "a step to show the expansion of our substantive military cooperation".


This will be China’s first multilateral drill after bilateral efforts with countries such as Britain, France, Pakistan, India, Australia, Thailand and the United States since 2003.


Nelson’s visit, his first to China since assuming the post in January 2006, comes in a tense mood after Australia recently published a defense policy paper that said "the pace and scope of (China's) military modernization ... could create misunderstandings and instability in the region".


The Chinese Foreign Ministry last week dismissed Australia's concerns over China's military development, saying the country would stick to the path of peaceful development.


However, Cao and Nelson steered clear of tense subjects during their talks, preferring instead to hail the good momentum of China-Australia military ties.


Cao, also vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission and State Councilor, praised the development of China-Australia military ties, citing frequent high-level visits, the existing consultation mechanisms and substantive exchanges in specialized fields.


Cao did give one warning shot, stating that "neither side should do anything to raise the concerns of the other country,” to which Nelson responded that Australia would like to increase its knowledge about China’s military, although he did admit its transparency had improved.


The talks included a briefing by Cao about China's military expenditure and defense policy.


"We think it perfectly appropriate for a country like China to increase its military capabilities," Nelson said.


Nelson said the Australian military looks forward to forging closer ties with China in terms of fighting terrorism, peacekeeping and disaster relief.


(Xinhua News Agency July 10, 2007)

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