Defense chief confirms Australia won’t send warship to Red Sea shield

Australia will not deploy a warship to the Red Sea as part of a nascent US-led coalition meant to protect vessels in vital shipping lanes being threatened by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Aussie Defense Minister Richard Marles confirms. Instead, it will contribute 16 troops to the effort, Sky News Australia reports.

The debate over whether to join the effort had roiled Canberra in recent days as some opposed wading into the Mideast’s messy waters.

Marles says the decision was based on needing warships closer to home to protect shipping lanes in the South China Sea, another important route where tensions are liable to swell.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese earlier indicated his opposition to sending ships to the Red Sea, earning plaudits from China, which said it would have raised tensions had it deployed a warship alongside the US and other Western allies.

The coalition was announced earlier this week, following repeated attacks by Iran-backed rebels opposed to Israel, who have vowed to attack ships passing through a key strait as part of a campaign backing the Hamas terror group in Gaza. The attacks have squeezed global shipping, with many carriers steaming around the Horn of Africa to avoid the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

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