[The Age, 15 May 2015.] In an article titled, Australia urged to send military to counter China’s control over sea lanes, The Age, a senior Australian figure is recommending that Australia takes a far more proactive stance with the hotly disputed Spratley Islands.

An edited extract of the original article is reproduced below.

Australia should prepare to send military aircraft and ships to the South China Sea to stop China from asserting territorial control across some of the world’s most important trading lanes, says a leading defence planner.

The recommendation by Peter Jennings, who chairs the Abbott government’s advisory panel for drafting the upcoming Defence white paper, followed vehement denials by both Canberra and Washington that the US plans to put long-range bombers in Australia to deter China…

Mr Jennings’ recommendation, meanwhile, raises the unprecedented prospect of Australian defence personnel facing off against the armed forces of Australia’s largest trading partner.

While it has not been endorsed by serving military or government leaders, the idea reflects the degree of concern in Canberra about China projecting military power and asserting control over contested waters that stretch as far as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Concerns this year have focused on China’s rapid construction of ports, airstrips and possibly even gun battlements upon previously submerged atolls in the Spratly archipelago…

To maintain credibility he said the US would have to puncture the Chinese claims by sending US vessels and aircraft flying through Chinese-claimed waters and airspace.

And Australia would need to follow suit.

“The next step after asserting our position is the simple physical demonstration of it by actually sailing through the sea and airspace,” said Mr Jennings.

“If we’re serious about asserting it then we’ll have to do it, at some stage,” said Mr Jennings…

Similarly, a spokesman for Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said that “the specifics of the future force posture co-operation (with US aircraft and personnel rotating through Darwin) are yet to be finalised”…

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