China and Australia to hold their first disaster relief exercises

Preparation of the exercise started at the beginning of the year, and was officially announced in June when Minister of National Defense Liang Guanglie met his Australian counterpart in Singapore on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue.

The joint exercise was a milestone in the two militaries’ cooperation in dealing with humanitarian crises caused by frequent natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region, said Air Commodore David Steele, director-general of the Joint Exercises and Evaluation Branch of the Australian Headquarters Joint Operations Command.

Australia provided disaster relief after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and also sent a rescue team to Pakistan to provide humanitarian assistance when the country was hit by flooding last year.

Chinese rescue teams also provided humanitarian assistance following major regional disasters including the Pakistani floods and the earthquake that hit Japan in March this year.

Liu Yi, a military scholar from the PLA Nanjing Institute of Politics, said China’s joint exercises with other countries were usually confined to neighbors or countries enjoying a close relationship with Beijing.

“In that regard, the joint exercise with Australia is a symbol of a more and more open Chinese military,” he said.

“In the future we can also have joint exercises in counter-terrorism and any other possible field.”

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