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Australian think tank urges Canberra to end Chinese lease of Darwin Port

ASPI director also wants British, Indian, Japanese forces to stay in northern Australia

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A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber lands during exercise Lightning Focus at Royal Australian Air Force Base (RAAF) in Darwin, Australia, Dec....

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber lands during exercise Lightning Focus at Royal Australian Air Force Base (RAAF) in Darwin, Australia, Dec.... (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The head of a prominent Australian think tank has published an article calling for Canberra to end a 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin to a Chinese company, saying the port would be strategically valuable in the event China invades Taiwan.

In an article for The Strategist, published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), the group's executive director Peter Jennings described the port as a “crucial strategic asset” that must be owned by Australia itself.

“There is no more important step the Morrison government could take than to end the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin to Chinese company Landbridge,” he wrote.

Jennings described Australia’s northern frontier as “the essential southern rampart of the Indo-Pacific.” He said China’s war planners will not limit themselves to simply attacking across the Taiwan Strait in the event the People's Liberation Army makes a move on the island.

He predicted China will first try to enforce a wide perimeter in the seas and the skies around Taiwan and deny U.S. and allied forces access to the battlespace. This will likely involve stopping shipments, disabling satellites, shutting down electricity grids with cyberattacks, and other preemptive measures to take out allied forces while they are still far away.

“American strategy is to spread its forces and keep them moving, making them as difficult a target as possible,” he wrote. Darwin Port, and the areas surrounding it, will be essential for stationing U.S. aircraft under these circumstances, he continued.

To that end, Jennings said the port should be reclaimed and then refurbished with new facilities and airbases in the area.

Jennings also recommended Canberra invite military forces from the U.K., Japan, and India to establish a presence in northern Australia, joining with the U.S. Marine Corps, which has been in the area for 10 years.

Only through a united show of strength can Australia and its security partners convince China that unilaterally attacking Taiwan is too risky, he concluded.