BEIJING --- "Chinese warships have carried out naval drills in Australia's maritime backyard for the third time in three years," said an article titled "Chinese naval ships close to Australia? 'Get used to it', experts warn" and written by David Wroe on The Sydney Morning Herald on March 10, 2017.
Australian experts said that the Australia needed to get used to a greater Chinese naval presence in seas to its immediate north and west, which in turn would demand more maritime surveillance including in co-operation with Indonesia, said the article.
Two missile destroyers and a supply ship attached to a far-sea training formation of the South China Sea Fleet under Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) sailed 8,000-plus sea miles and conducted combat exercises during a 25-day voyage that took them close to Australia's Christmas Island, according to the article.
The PLA Navy made major headlines in early 2014 when they carried out similar drills in the eastern Indian Ocean close to Australian territory for the first time. This was followed by anti-piracy exercises close to Christmas Island in May last year.
Rory Medcalf, head of the national security college at the Australian National University, said the latest drills showed that Beijing's "maritime silk road" initiative of creating global sea corridors was "much more than an economic initiative" but also had a military dimension.
Malcolm Davis of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said that China was "going to deploy naval force into our backyard on a more regular basis".
The analysts all said that China's greatest strategic interest in familiarizing its navy with these waters is that in the event of a crisis or conflict its adversaries would likely blockade the Malacca Strait on which China depends for energy supplies.
The Sunda and Lombok straits are the natural alternative route if the Malacca Strait is impassable to Chinese vessels.