Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton confirms review of Chinese port leaseBusiness | 3 May 2021 9:43 am
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed his department is reviewing the ownership by a Chinese company of a strategically important port used as a base for U.S. Marines, Bloomberg reports.
The National Security Committee of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Cabinet had asked the defense department to advise on the ownership, Dutton said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald published late Sunday.
Asked whether the government was mulling forced divestment, the minister said it would consider the national interests.
The move is likely to further increase tensions between Australia and its largest trading partner China, which have nosedived since the call by Morrison’s government a year ago for Beijing to allow independent investigators into Wuhan to probe the origins of the coronavirus.
The Northern Territory government’s deal in 2015 to sell a long-term lease to the Port of Darwin to Chinese firm Landbridge Group has been criticized by security experts. It came four years after then President Barack Obama secured a deal to base about 2,500 Marines in Darwin, which is on the doorstep of the Indo-Pacific.