US President Donald Trump called for the naval coalition after several vessels were damaged in the narrow Strait off the coast of Iran. Australia become just the third country to officially join the mission, which is intended to protect commercial shipping, after Britain and Bahrain signed up. There is now significant pressure on Japan to become the fourth – but they may not want to risk their friendly relationship with Tehran.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged troops, a surveillance plan and a frigate to the joint venture.
He said: “This destabilising behaviour is a threat to Australia’s interests in the region.
“The government has decided that it is in Australia’s national interest to work with our international partners to contribute.
“Our contribution will be limited in scope and it will be time-bound.”
The US claims that the mission is necessary to “combat Iranian aggression” and protect the valuable Strait.
A fifth of the world’s oil travels through the narrow channel.
For Australia, 30 percent of refined oil destined for Canberra goes through the Gulf.
The US request was being “seriously considered” earlier this month, but no guarantee was made.
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He wrote in the Japan Times: “Tokyo has said it is exploring what role it can play in safeguarding ships in the strait – a key sea lane through which around one-fifth of the world’s oil passes – while not impairing its long-standing friendship with Iran.
“A Kyodo News survey showed Sunday that over half of voters oppose dispatching Self-Defense Force personnel to the Middle East to join the coalition.”
He added that the US could now expect Japan to contribute a similar amount to the mission.
Tokyo has been a key ally of Washington in recent decades due to the rise of China’s influence.
The two regularly hold naval drills and collaborate on a diplomatic level, but have faced some stumbling blocks on trade and international relations.
He claimed that without Washington’s support, it will be impossible for Australia to defend itself against Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea.
Mr White added: “It’s made perfect sense for Australia not to contemplate nuclear weapons for the last 40 years because we’ve enjoyed a very high level of confidence in the American nuclear umbrella.
“But America provided that umbrella because it secured its position as the primary power in Asia.”
He suggested that there is no way Australia can take that risk, especially with limited support from the Trump administration.