Australia to send military personnel to help protect Red Sea shipping

21 December 2023, 10:24 | Updated: 2 January 2024, 07:49

Australia Red Sea Attacks
Australia Red Sea Attacks. Picture: PA

Defence minister Richard Marles said on Thursday Australia’s military needs to keep focused on the Pacific region.

Australia will send 11 military personnel to support a US-led mission to protect cargo shipping in the Red Sea, but it will not send a warship or plane, the defence minister has said.

Defence minister Richard Marles said on Thursday Australia’s military needs to keep focused on the Pacific region.

The United States announced this week that several nations are creating a force to protect commercial shipping from attack by drones and ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

Mr Marles said 11 military personnel will be sent in January to Operation Prosperity Guardian’s headquarters in Bahrain, where five Australians are already posted.

“We won’t be sending a ship or a plane,” he told Sky News television.

“That said, we will be almost tripling our contribution to the combined maritime force.

“We need to be really clear around our strategic focus, and our strategic focus is our region: the northeast Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Pacific.”

The US and its allies are concerned by China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

Australia is one of the United States’ closest military allies. The US Congress last week passed legislation allowing the sale of Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines to Australia under a security pact that includes Britain.

Mr Marles rejected opposition law makers’ criticism that a failure to send a warship as the United States had requested made Australia a less reliable partner and ally.

“That’s patently ridiculous,” he said, adding the US is aware of the scale of the Australian defence force and the need to maintain its focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Marles said: “It is to state the obvious that to take a major asset and put it in the Middle East is to take a major asset away from what we’re doing in the immediate region.

Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie called on Australia to send a warship.

He said: “It’s in our national interest to contribute. If we want others to help us in a time of need, we need to step up and reciprocate now.”

Several cargo ships in the Red Sea have been damaged by the attacks. Multiple shipping companies have ordered their ships not enter the Bab el-Mandeb Strait until security is improved.

By Press Association

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