A Chinese company's lease on a military and commercial port in northern Australia's Darwin area is under review by the Australian government, Reuters reported Monday, as relations grow tense between Beijing and Canberra over trade and regional issues.
Australia's Defence officials will evaluate whether to terminate a contentious lease to a Chinese company of Darwin port, which is situated near a military base housing U.S. Marines.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the National Security Committee has asked the Department of Defence to advise on the ownership by the Chinese company.
Dutton said officials would consider Australia's national interests, when asked whether the government was conosidering a forced divestment.
The U.S. has long expressed concern about the 99-year lease, which was sold by the Northern Territory government to Shandong-based Landbridge for A$506 million ($390 million) in 2015.
The review was announced following a deterioration in Australia-China relations, which prompted Canberra to scrap two Belt and Road Initiative deals between the two countries last week.
"Australia's defence and security agencies were unanimous in 2015 that the deal didn't present a national security risk," Financial Times quoted James Laurenceson as saying.
Ties between Australia and China have worsened since the call by Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government in 2020 for Beijing to let independent investigators into Wuhan to probe the origins of the coronavirus.
Australia revised its international investment policies late last year, giving the country the retrospective authority to carry out new conditions, or even force a divestment, on deals that have already been approved.
Touted as Australia's gateway to Asian markets, Darwin is the centerpiece of the government's plan to develop its remote north.
The Defence department, the Australian offices of Landbridge and the Chinese consulate in Canberra did not immediately respond to requests for comment.