Amidst China flexing its muscles in the region, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 270 billion Australian dollars will be invested to modernise the country’s defence capabilities in the coming decade to maintain regional security and deter or respond to “aggression” in the strategic Indo-Pacific.
“The challenges and nature in the Indo-Pacific have meant we need a new approach and one that actively seeks to deter actions that are against our interests,” Morrison said.
China has been fast expanding military and economic influence in the Indo-Pacific region, triggering concern in various countries of the region and beyond.
China is also engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. Both areas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are vital to global trade.
Morrison said the world was changing rapidly after the COVID-19 outbreak. “This simple truth is this: Even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, that is more dangerous and that is more disorderly,” the prime minister said.
”You’ve got to have a responsible deterrent and Australia plays an important role in our region, working with others, particularly like India and Japan and many other nations, Indonesia, right across the Indo-Pacific,’ he said.
“We’ve got to be aware of the potential threats that can emerge. I mean, the strategic competition between China and the United States means that there’s a lot of tension and a lot of risk of miscalculation,” he told a news channel.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said military capability in the region was modernising rapidly and it needed to maintain a regional capability edge.
“It is essential that we have the capabilities that can hold forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance, to influence decision-making of those who may seek to threaten our national interests,” Reynolds said.