The Australian Navy may be preparing for a direct venture into the South China Sea

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WHEN Malcolm Turnbull met Donald Trump, China was a big talking point. It’s what our Prime Minister didn’t say that may provoke the superpower.

THE Australian Navy may be preparing for a direct independent venture into the South China Sea.

Australia has traditionally avoided direct participation in freedom-of-navigation exercises so as not to affect diplomatic relations with China, our largest trading partner.

While meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Washington, United States President Donald Trump warned that China was “tough” and “getting stronger”, saying the US needed to step up its efforts against Beijing.

When asked if the US would consider joint freedom-of-navigation exercises with Australia, Mr Trump said: “We would love to have Australia involved and I think Australia wants us to stay involved.”

But Mr Turnbull gave a vague response when subsequently pressed on joint naval exercises with the US.

In a move likely to prompt a hostile reaction from Beijing, Mr Turnbull refused to rule it out directly.

“Australia, as you know, defends the right of freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the world but we do not want to speculate on operational matters,” he told reporters.

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