BERLIN, Germany: Highlighting Berlin's increasing focus on assisting in the Indo-Pacific region amidst rising tensions with China over Taiwan, Germany is sending 13 military aircraft to participate in joint exercises in Australia, which will be the German air force's largest peacetime deployment.
After U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in August, tensions have further risen in the region with China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, conducting repeated military drills around the island.
This week, six Eurofighter jets and three A330 tankers departed to join 16 other nations in the biennial exercise, entitled, "Pitch Black."
Ahead of the mission, German air force chief Ingo Gerhartz told
reporters that the deployment will include detours to Japan and South Korea, and the fighter jets will be refueled almost 200 times mid-air.
Gerhartz said, when asked by reporters if the planes will pass the Taiwan Strait, that no passage of the Taiwan Strait was planned and the aircraft would fly within civilian air traffic routes, stating, "The South China Sea, Taiwan, these are obviously the sticking points in the Region," as quoted by Reuters.
"I do not think we are sending any threatening message towards China by flying to an exercise in Australia," he added, noting that the deployment was, rather, aiming to send a signal to Germany's partners, rather than China.
Meanwhile, Australia's ambassador to Germany, Philip Green, stressed that Beijing had no reason to think that a regular exercise would be destabilizing to the region.
When asked about the message for China, he said, "We are seeking a region which will be stable, peaceful and prosperous..where each country can make their own sovereign choices," he said, as reported by Reuters.