Publish date24 Oct 2020 - 10:42
Story Code : 479712

Australia to end naval presence in Middle East shifting focus on Asia-Pacific

Australia has announced it will end sending warships to the Middle East this year as the Federal Government is focusing more on strategic environment closer to home.
Australia to end naval presence in Middle East shifting focus on Asia-Pacific
Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds made the announcement in a statement on Friday, noting that the sudden end of the country’s naval presence in the Middle East came as the Federal Government struggles with a growingly uncertain strategic environment closer to home.

Back in June, the Australian Defense Force (ADF) withdrew HMAS Toowoomba from the Middle East and returned it home.

The frigate was the last Australian Navy ship deployed to the region under Operation MANITOU, which is the country’s purported contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability, and prosperity in the Middle East Region (MER).

“We now face an increasingly challenging strategic environment which is placing greater demand on ADF resources closer to home,” Reynolds said.
“As a result, the Australian Defence Force will reduce its naval presence in the Middle East to enable more resources to be deployed in our region,” she added.

Canberra, with its shifted priorities, will also pull out of the US-led naval coalition patrolling the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf at the end of December.

“This year alone has seen [the] Navy respond to the bushfire and COVID-19 crises, a five-ship deployment throughout South-East Asia and the Pacific, a continued commitment to initiatives under the Pacific Step Up, and several highly successful activities with our regional partners,” Reynolds further said.

The recent Defense Strategic Update of the government flagged the shift of focus, declaring that worsening strategic circumstances would force the military to concentrate more sharply on the Indo-Pacific and Australia’s immediate region.

According to a report by ABC News on Friday, Australia’s senior officials, military officers as well as ministers of Prime Minister Scott Morrison have been contemplating the shift away from the Middle East for the past several years.

The report also quoted the Navy's Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, as hailing the change announced by the government as “historic.”

Australia has taken part in an increasing number of naval drills in the disputed waters of the South China Sea with an array of allies and partners, including the US and Japan, amid simmering regional security tensions with China, which has purportedly engaged in a massive naval build-up there over the last decade.
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