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Thursday, November 19, 2015, 17:13

Australian PM stands by port decision

By Associated Press
Australian PM stands by port decision
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives for the plenary session for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, Philippines, Nov 19, 2015. (A P Photo / Aaron Favila)

CANBERRA, Australia - Australia's prime minister on Thursday defended the leasing of a strategically important port to a Chinese company, saying the military could seize control in a crisis.

The Northern Territory government has struck a deal to lease Darwin city's port to the Chinese government-linked Landbridge Group for 99 years.

The deal has attracted criticism because Darwin in an important military base on the northern Australian coast, where up to 2,500 US Marines train as part of increasing US defense resources in the Asia-Pacific region.

Turnbull said on Thursday that Australian defense officials were not concerned by the deal and had not lost control over the port.

"The Department of Defense or this federal government can step in and take control of infrastructure like this in circumstances where it's deemed necessary for purposes of defense," Turnbull told reporters in Manila.

The government announced on Thursday it had barred foreigners from buying a company that owns the world's largest cattle ranch and other Australian farmland greater in area than South Korea.

The company, S. Kidman & Co. Ltd., owns 10 cattle ranches, a bull breeding stud and a feed lot covering 101,411 square kilometers in four states.

Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board found that the sale to foreign investors would be contrary to the national interest. But the reasons were not fully explained.

At least three Chinese bidders were reportedly interested in buying the Adelaide-based company.

"You would be wrong to assume that there was only one foreign country associated with the buyers. So there's no issue of discrimination here," Turnbull told reporters.

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