Australia to step up Military ties with China

Melbourne: Months after expressing alarm over Beijing`s rapid military expansion, Australia`s prime minister, Julia Gillard, on Thursday announced that the two nations will undertake joint military exercises and Canberra will host Chinese warships.

Winding up her trip to China, Gillard told reporters that military ties with Beijing would be expanded and she had discussed greater military cooperation with president Hu Jintao in friendly talks.

"We indicated a preparedness to step up defence cooperation", the prime minister told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"We have offered that their warships visit Australian ports and there are prospects that some would be visiting before the end of the year. It is few small steps to better understand each other`s military perspective", she said.

Australia`s new 20-year defence plan released recently projected China to be on the way to becoming a dominant military power. "But warned that the pace, scope and structure of its expansion could create tensions".

Gillard said neither Hu nor the Premier, Wen Jiabao, raised any concerns about Australia`s military relationships with the US, or its allies, and nor did she raise concerns about the People`s Liberation Army.

Instead, Gillard and Hu yesterday moved to build greater military co-operation including livefire exercises at sea and Chinese warships docking in Australia.

China is Australia`s largest trading partner, buying mostly raw materials such as coal and iron ore, crucial to Bejing`s rapid industrialisation.