Featuring the best comments by Interpreter readers, as selected by the editors.
Last week, Rory Medcalf argued that the trilateral Australia-US-China military training exercise that is taking place in the Northern Territory 'challenges the simplistic notion that the closer Australia gets to its US ally, or indeed to Japan, the more strained and mistrustful becomes its relationship with China.'
In response, Zachary Keck at The Diplomat called the exercise something 'clearly devised by political leaders as a PR stunt'. In the comments, Dr Malcolm Davis, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Bond University who specialises in Chinese defence and strategic policy issues, said:
Having just spent a month in Beijing at the China Foreign Affairs University, its interesting that I was challenged numerous times over the issue of US-Australia, and Japan-Australia relations, particularly the latter as a result of news media reporting about the Soryu class submarine option for the RAN. I was told numerous times that Australia 'should correct its policy' to better reflect its interests in preserving its relationship with China. My response was that Australia seeks to be on good terms with all Asian states (minus North Korea of course, which we have no diplomatic relations with), and that our 2013 Defence White Paper makes this clear, as does the current actions of the Abbott government.
I furthermore made it clear that as a sovereign nation-state we have the right to choose our own friends without enduring pressure from more powerful states to 'correct' our policies — our policies are correct in the first place. I think these multinational exercises are good, and as Rory says, they demonstrate that better ties with Washington or Tokyo need not imply worse ties with Beijing. But there are voices at quite high levels who do not see this in 'win win' terms, but see it in 'zero sum' terms — and are just as ill-informed as Mr Fraser is.