BEIJING (Reuters) – The Chinese and Australian armies have concluded a joint military training exercise in China’s southern island province of Hainan, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.
The so-called “Panda-Kangaroo 2019” exercise began on Oct. 10 and ended on Saturday, Xinhua said, adding that 10 officers and soldiers from each country’s army participated in the drill, which “focused on honing the participants’ military skills, willpower and team spirit.”
The joint exercise comes amid a downturn in Sino-Australia relations, with China in August formally arresting Chinese-born Australian writer Yang Hengjun on suspicion of espionage and Canberra expressing concern over China’s actions in disputed South China Sea waters.
Australia last year blocked Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment for its 5G mobile network, citing national security risks, while Reuters reported in February this year that a key Chinese port had restricted imports of Australian coal.
In a statement earlier this month, Australia’s Department of Defence said the annual “Pandaroo” exercise was “designed to establish strong people-to-people links and mutual understanding” at the junior officer, non-commissioned officer and soldier level.
(Reporting by Tom Daly; additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; editing by Richard Pullin)