Australia no longer sending Navy to the Middle East, shifts focus to Asia-Pacific, China

A three-decades-long Australian naval presence in the Middle East will come to an abrupt end this year as the Federal Government grapples with an increasingly uncertain strategic environment closer to home.

Key points:

The shift was flagged in the Government's recent Defence Strategic Update

It declared the military would focus more on the Indo-Pacific and Australia's immediate region

China has engaged in a massive naval build-up and is asserting its control over the South China Sea

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has announced Australia will no longer send a Royal Australian Navy ship to the Middle East every year.

The last Australian Navy ship deployed to the region, HMAS Toowoomba, returned to Australia in June this year.

Australia will also withdraw from the United States-led naval coalition patrolling the Strait of Hormuz at the end of 2020.

That means around 30 years of Australian maritime operations in the Middle East — largely focussed on counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations — will soon come to an end.

In a statement, Senator Reynolds said the Government's priorities had shifted.

"This year alone has seen [the] Navy respond to the bushfire and COVID-19 crises, a five-ship deployment throughout South-East Asia and the Pacific, a continued commitment to initiatives under the Pacific Step Up, and several highly successful activities with our regional partners," Minister Reynolds said.

"We now face an increasingly challenging strategic environment which is placing greater demand on ADF resources closer to home.

"As a result, the Australian Defence Force will reduce its naval presence in the Middle East to enable more resources to be deployed in our region."

The shift was flagged in the Government's recent Defence Strategic Update, which declared that deteriorating strategic circumstances would force the military to focus more sharply on the Indo-Pacific and Australia's immediate region.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-23/australia-will-stop-sending-navy-to-middle-east-to-shift-focus/12808118