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Germany Sends Troops to Australia as Focus Shifts to Indo-pacific

Germany will, for the first time, send troops to Australia as part of joint drills with about 30,000 service members from 12 other nations, underlining Berlin’s increased focus on the Indo-Pacific amid rising tensions with China in the region.

Up to 240 German soldiers, among them 170 paratroopers and 40 marines, will take part in the Talisman Sabre exercise from July 22 to August 4, the largest drills between Australia and the US, held biannually, according to army chief Lieutenant General Alfons Mais.

“It is a region of extremely high importance for us in Germany as well as for the European Union due to the economic interdependencies,” Mais told the Reuters news agency in an interview published on Monday, hours before the first German troops were to leave for Australia.

The Germans will train in jungle warfare and landing operations alongside soldiers from countries such as Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, France and Britain.

“We aim to demonstrate that we are reliable and capable partners that contribute to stabilising the rules-based order in the region,” Mais said.

U.S. Marines assault amphibious vehicles, depart the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay, during the Talisman Sabre 2019, a U.S. and Australian biennial training event off the coast of Northern Australia in Bowen, Australia

When asked what message the first deployment of German troops to Australia was meant to send to China, he underscored Berlin did not aim to antagonise anybody.

“It generally makes sense to get to know the perspective others have upon the world,” said the lieutenant general, adding that the current security challenges were much less clear-cut than before 1990.

“The Cold War was easy, it was a bipolar world. Today, we can no longer focus on Europe only … we have to position ourselves much more broadly,” the army chief underscored.

China is Berlin’s most important trading partner, and 40 percent of Europe’s foreign trade flows through the South China Sea, a waterway that is a focal point for territorial disputes in the Indo-Pacific.

Increased focus

In 2021, a German warship sailed into the South China Sea for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Last year, Berlin sent 13 military aircraft to joint exercises in Australia, the air force’s largest peacetime deployment.

Mais plans to visit German troops in Australia and a Rheinmetall plant assembling Boxer armoured transport vehicles for both armies in mid-July, before travelling on to Japan and Singapore.

“Japan is a partner that holds a lot of potential for a deepening of our bilateral military cooperation,” he said.

As to Talisman Sabre, German troops already have orders to return to Australia for the next exercise in 2025.