Last Friday we got a sense of how fraught Australia's foreign-policy position is becoming between its major strategic partner (the US) and its major economic partner (China), when a senior Penatgon official declared that the US was going to put B-1 bombers on Australian soil. The official 'misspoke', it turns out, though the sensitivity of the issue was revealed by the fact that none less than the Prime Minister hosed the matter down publicly within hours.
Part of what made the issue so sensitive is that, according to the media, at least, the Pentagon's B-1 gambit was linked explicitly to Beijing's assertiveness in the South China Sea. Yesterday the Lowy Institute hosted an in-depth discussion on that fraught territorial dispute with two of its non-resident fellows, Linda Jakobson and Bonnie Glaser, as well as the director of the Institute's East Asia Program, Merriden Varrall. You can listen to the 60-minute podcast here, or click below to listen to a short interview I did with Bonnie Glaser yesterday on this topic.
(NB: A couple of issues referenced in the interview which are worth linking to: first, the Wall St Journal article from 12 May regarding possible US military deployments to the South China Sea, and second, quotes from China's navy chief inviting the US to use the facilities China is now building in the South China Sea.)