In comments on Australian radio, US Army Assistant Chief of Staff Col. Tom Hanson warned that the Australia needs to make a decision between its alliance with the United States or its efforts to improve economic ties with China, saying the time was fast approach that they would need to decide which was more vital to their national interest.
The United States is a long-time military ally of Australia, but a fairly minor customer for the country’s exports. China, on the other hand, is by far Australia’s largest trading partner both as an importer and exporter, and the country’s reliance on natural resources which Australia has in abundance has made them natural trading partners.
Australian officials have offered some statements of support for US efforts to contest China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, and some Australian politicians are warning that they believe that their reliance on trade with China is giving China growing diplomatic influence with them.
Pentagon officials later sought to downplay the comments, insisting that Col. Hanson, despite being a very high-ranking official in the army, did not “necessarily” represent the position of the US government.
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