AustraliaMorrison visits US aircraft carrier as Chinese ship watches war games
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made a historic visit to the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, in a show of friendship with the United States, as China sends a warship to the vicinity of joint military exercises off the Australian coast.
Mr Morrison made the flying visit on Friday, arriving on the vessel as it was participating in Operation Talisman Sabre, a biennial training exercise involving the US and Australian militaries.
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In a rare move for an Australian leader, Mr Morrison addressed the full crew of the Reagan, praising the special friendship between the two countries.
“Yes, we are in awe of the strength and power of the United States which this ship so ably represents, but at the heart of our friendship are the values and beliefs that knit our two countries together,” Mr Morrison said.
“Ships will come, ships will go, politicians will come and go, but our values will endure. They always do.”
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“Australia and the United States see the world through the same eyes.”
The visit comes as the Australian military tracks a Chinese vessel which has travelled to just outside Australia’s territorial waters in the Coral Sea.
It’s speculated the high-tech vessel is there to observe Talisman Sabre, in a similar move to 2017, when China also sent ships to observe operations.
“We know where they are. We’re keeping an eye on them,” said Rear Admiral Karl Thomas, Commander of the Japan-based Combined Task Force 70 and Carrier Strike Group 5, which is participating in the training.
“We ensure they won’t interfere in the exercise, we’re very good at operating around them.”
Rear Admiral Thomas also praised the US-Australia relationship, saying the operation allowed both countries' armed forces to work closely together.
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“Being the only forward-deployed fleet, the Reagan is based in Japan, that allows us to be where it matters, when it matters, quickly,” he said.
“It’s a long way to Australia, it shows the commitment we have as a country to our alliance and committing forces to this exercise.”
Opposition Defence spokesman Richard Marles also travelled to the Reagan with the Prime Minister, and said it was important for the exercise to continue.
“The Chinese are exercising their rights in international waters, it’s not going to faze the way the Australian Defence Force and US forces go about their business,” Mr Marles said.
Peace through strength
US President Ronald Reagan famously had the motto “peace through strength” and the vessel that bears his name has also adopted his motto. And it’s not hard to see why.
Mr Morrison was given a tour of the flight deck of the $4.5 billion aircraft carrier, seeing firsthand a number of its more than 70 fighter jets, including F/A-18 Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers, taking off and landing.
About 5000 crew were aboard, including the flight crews and the ship’s crew.
The enormous nuclear-powered vessel can stay at sea for 20 years without refuelling, and Rear Admiral Thomas confirmed that if it came to it, the Reagan could single-handedly wage war with most countries on Earth.
However, he hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
“The motto of this ship is ‘peace through strength’, a saying Ronald Reagan held dear, and I think that’s something this ship represents,” he said.
“If you’re strong it helps us to maintain peace in this important region.
“Having a carrier present sends a message.”
About 25,000 military personnel from Australia and the US are taking part in Talisman Sabre, which is due to run for the next few weeks.
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