Australia to boost defense forces by one-third by 2040

Special to BenarNews
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Australia to boost defense forces by one-third by 2040 Australian Army 3rd Brigade soldiers participate in joint military exercises with U.S. troops at Langham Beach Queensland, northeast Australia, July 13, 2017.

Australia will expand its active defense personnel by about a third by 2040 “to keep Australians safe,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, even as Beijing has urged Canberra to “stop hyping the ‘China threat.’”

Morrison told reporters on Thursday that the number of personnel will increase by 18,500 to 80,000 by 2040, at an estimated cost of 38 billion Australian dollars (U.S. $28 billion).

Australia annual defense budget is about $44.6 billion (U.S. $32.85 billion).

“This is a significant investment in our future force,” Morrison said of the plans, describing it as the biggest peacetime increase in defense forces in Australian history.

The prime minister said “there was never a more important time” as the Australian people are facing “an increasingly uncertain global environment.”

“ADF personnel will be increased in every state and territory with a particular focus on capabilities associated with our trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS), as well as air, sea, land, space and cyber,” Morrison said.

Australia recently joined AUKUS and restarted the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, to deal with new challenges in the Indo-Pacific.

Under AUKUS, Washington and London will help Canberra build nuclear-powered submarines using advanced technology.

China has denounced the pact, seen as an effort to counter China’s growing influence in the region, and called it “extremely irresponsible.”

A Lowy Institute poll in 2021 shows that a majority of Australians (63 percent) see China as “more of a security threat” to Australia than an economic partner.

In 2018, 82 percent of Australians saw China as more of an economic partner, the institute said.

In an interview with the Australian broadcaster ABC aired last weekend, Defense Minister Peter Dutton revealed that Australia might acquire nuclear submarines earlier than 2040 – the expected timeline.

He said the details on design and construction of the submarines are to be announced “within a couple of months,” possibly even before federal elections in May.

Taiwan question

The minister indicated that Australia may send weapons to Taiwan in response to any future Chinese military aggression against the island amid the Ukrainian crisis.

“I think we do whatever we can to deter China from acts of aggression in our region,” Dutton said during the interview.

“We would take interest in any of those conflicts or the threat of conflict that serve our national interest,” he said.

Beijing, which regards self-governing Taiwan as part of China, responded angrily on Thursday.

Senior Col. Tan Kefei, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, said Dutton’s remarks “fully exposed his Cold War mentality and ideological bias.”

“The Taiwan question is purely an internal affair of China which brooks no outside interference, and Australia has no business making irresponsible remarks,” Tan said, adding: “We urge certain senior Australian military and political officials to stop exaggerating and hyping the ‘China threat.’”

“Anyone who makes troubles on the Taiwan question will suffer the worst consequences in the end,” the Chinese military spokesman said.

Analysts, however, said a Chinese attack on Taiwan is not imminent, despite speculation that Beijing could be emboldened with the West preoccupied by the Russian assault on Ukraine.

“I don’t see China moving deliberately to attack either Taiwan or a South China Sea target during this crisis, at least in its current stage,” said Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst on security and defense at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

“They’ll watch how the U.S. in particular responds to the Russian actions, and also international responses, and calibrate their approach to Taiwan accordingly.”

“If the Ukraine conflict escalates to a wider war between NATO and Russia, China may decide that then is the time to make decisive moves,” the Australian analyst said.


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