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End Of China’s Port Lease Possible: Australian Defense Minister 

The Port of Darwin's lease with China is one of the deals that could be ended by the foreign minister, Peter Dutton says.

DARWIN, Australia — Australia’s Port of Darwin lease is one of the many deals that have been sewn up with China and one that Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, could consider ending after she tore up Victoria’s Belt and Road Initiative with the Asian giant last week.

The Belt and Road Initiative, known in Chinese and formerly in English as One Belt One Road or OBOR for short, is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations.

The Northern Territory government signed a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin to a Chinese-owned company in 2015.

In October 2015, the Chinese-owned Landbridge Group won the bid for a lease of Port Darwin. The then Country Liberal-controlled Northern Territory Government granted the company a 99-year lease for AUD 506 million ($394 million). The contract price is more than 25 times the port’s profit over the preceding two years, and Landbridge also promised to invest AUD 200 million ($155.7 million) over a 25-year period.

The Northern Territory government signed a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin with a Chinese-owned company in 2015. (Lukas Coch/AAP Image)

“There are literally thousands of these cases to look at, and the foreign affairs minister is working through all of that,” Defense Minister Peter Dutton informed the Insiders program on April 25.

Peter Craig Dutton is an Australian Liberal Party politician who has been Minister for Defense and Leader of the House since March 2021 and the Member of Parliament for Dickson since 2001.

“I am not pre-empting or suggesting that she’s looking at it. I think it is a question for Marise to look at these individual cases. If it is not in our national interests, then obviously she will act.”

The decision to end Victoria’s infrastructure initiative with China was the latest twist in the growing Sino-Australian tensions.

Within the region, there are concerns of a looming battle from China aiming to retake Taiwan.

“I don’t think it should be discounted, and I think China has been very clear about the reunification, and that’s been a long-held objective of theirs,” Dutton said.

“If you look at any of the rhetoric that is coming out of China from spokesmen, particularly in recent weeks and months in response to different suggestions that have been made, they have been very clear about that goal.”

He said there is a significant amount of activity and animosity between Taiwan and China.

“For us, we want to make sure we continue to be a good neighbor in the region, that we work with our partners and with our allies,” he said.

“Nobody wants to see the conflict between China and Taiwan or anywhere else.”

(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ritaban Misra.)

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