East Timor’s President Jose Ramos-Horta has stated that the country has not discussed military cooperation with China as part of its upgraded diplomatic ties. This reassurance comes amid concerns from Australia about China’s efforts to form security ties with countries near Australia. While a Comprehensive Strategic Framework signed by East Timor and China covers development cooperation in agriculture and infrastructure, Ramos-Horta clarified that it does not include military exchanges. He emphasized that East Timor aims to join ASEAN by 2025 and will not bring in any foreign elements that would jeopardize the region’s policy of neutrality and security.
Ramos-Horta also highlighted East Timor’s extensive security cooperation with Australia, its top aid donor. The country receives military and police advisers as well as patrol boats from Australia. Meanwhile, China’s support primarily focuses on infrastructure development, including government buildings, finance, agriculture, and health. A delegation of Chinese companies visited East Timor to discuss potential investments in oil and gas projects, while the main priority for East Timor remains finalizing a joint venture agreement with Australian company Woodside Energy for the Greater Sunrise gas project.
Additionally, Ramos-Horta emphasized the importance of addressing food security in East Timor. He urged countries like Australia, European nations, and the United States to commit funds and technology to the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development to tackle the agriculture challenges posed by climate change for small farmers around the world. At the Global Citizen Festival, Ramos-Horta also supported calls for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, which puts pressure on Australia as a major coal exporter. Despite these concerns, Ramos-Horta expressed gratitude for Australia’s support.