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Boosting China Military Ties Australian Priority, Carr Says

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the government is seeking to boost military and political ties with China even as his nation deepens its defense relationship with the U.S.

“We want more military to military co-operation with the Chinese,” Carr said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Kuala Lumpur today. “We’re interested in spreading the relationship beyond the economic.”

Australia is cementing relations with the world’s two biggest economies, with the U.S. its main military ally for more than 60 years and China its biggest trading partner. The U.S. is increasing its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and deploying 2,500 Marines in northern Australia as China’s power grows.

“The Chinese are entitled to modernize and upgrade their military in response to their economic development,” Carr said. “So too is Australia entitled to nurture its treaty relationship with the U.S. I think the Chinese fundamentally understand that.”

China, fueled by its appetite for iron ore and coking coal, has surpassed Japan and the U.S. as the biggest buyer of Australian exports. Growth in the world’s most populous nation slowed to the weakest pace since 2009 in the third quarter.

Leadership Decisions

Australia is seeking “more regular, more systematic contact” with China’s leaders, Carr said. “We’ve put a proposition to the Chinese, which they need to think through especially as they’re focused in these months on the leadership transition.”

China’s Communist Party starts its 18th Congress in Beijing tomorrow, when 2,2370 delegates will begin meeting over several days to decide on changes to the organization’s top leadership, which will probably see Xi Jinping replace Hu Jintao as general secretary of the party that’s ruled China since 1949.

The two nations have a fundamentally sound relationship, with Australia encouraging Chinese investment in its resources and agricultural industries, he said.

Carr will attend talks in Perth on Nov. 14 with his Defense Minister Stephen Smith and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. The discussions aren’t likely to focus on security issues, he said today.

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