China's Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian addresses the Australia-China Relations Institute, at the University of Technology Sydney, in Sydney, Australia, 24 June 2022. EFE/EPA/FILE/DAN HIMBRECHTS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT[AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT]

Australia, China hold first formal defense meet since 2019

Sydney, Australia, Mar 22 (EFE).- Defense officials from China and Australia met in Canberra on Wednesday, in what was the first official meeting between the two parties since 2019.

The development comes at the height of Australia’s security alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom (AUKUS).

The Chinese defense ministry said in a statement that the negotiations have further improved mutual understanding, leading to a healthy, stable and improved relationship between the two parties.

An Australian defense ministry spokesperson confirmed the meeting, saying it took place in a professional atmosphere, with both sides exchanging views on regional issues, according to a statement quoted by Australian broadcaster 9News.

The meeting is in line with a certain improvement in the relations between the two countries, despite commercial and security tensions.

Earlier this month, the foreign ministers of China and Australia, Qin Gang and Penny Gong, respectively, held a meeting on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in India.

Last week, US President Joe Biden and UK and Australian prime ministers, Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese, respectively, announced in San Diego (USA) the details of the AUKUS plan.

The agreement, first signed in September 2021, will allow Australia to acquire nuclear submarines for the first time, and pose a challenge to China’s growing hegemony in the Indo-Pacific.

The AUKUS plan has been harshly criticized by China, which claims it promotes “nuclear proliferation” and endangers regional stability and peace.

Australia, on its part, has said that the pact does not seek confrontation with China, and it would cooperate as much as possible while expressing disapproval where required, such as human rights issues and Beijing’s expansive policy in the South China Sea.

In addition to nuclear submarines, Australia confirmed on Friday its intention to buy long-range missiles from the US, which in turn authorized the sale of up to 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles to the Oceanic country. EFE