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What China hopes to learn from spying on US-Australian military exercises

3AW Breakfast

Chinese spies are forcing Australian and US forces to revert to Cold War style training tactics.

A Chinese spy ship is monitoring the biannual Talisman Sabre training exercise, a huge US-Australian training operation involving around 20,000 troops and the most sophisticated ships and aircraft from both countries.

Executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Peter Jennings, said it’s unsurprising that China is interested in the exercise.

“I’m not surprised that China is interested in it because one of the things that puzzles them in military affairs is ‘how can two countries operate so closely together?,” he told 3AW’s Kate and Quarters.

The overt Chinese surveillance is limiting the use of technology in the exercise.

“Our forces will have to be very careful to make sure that they’re not turning on radar systems or weapons systems, because it’s the electronic signals that those radars and sensors emit that the Chinese are very interested to gather,” Mr Jennings said.

“It will put some practical constraints on our forces exercising to the full level of the technological capabilities that they have.”

The Chinese spy ship is in international waters, so technically its actions are permissible, but many say Australia should do more to express its disapproval.

“We spend most of our time looking the other way because the economic relationship is so important that we will forgive them for all of the intelligence gathering and the cyber spying and the other things that China is now doing,” Mr Jennings said.

“When we know they’re engaging in activities which are damaging to our interests we should call them out about it.”

It’s not the first time China has spied on the exercise.

Two years ago, the last time the training was held, a Chinese spy ship also monitored the exercise.

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