MELBOURNE–With its proposals to sharply boost defense spending and build a much farther-reaching military, Australia says it wants to be able to protect the nation in an increasingly complex and uncertain world.
At the same time, Canberra’s latest defense white paper has irked China, exposing the tricky course it must navigate between its main trading partner and the United States, its principal security ally.
The white paper, released late last month, would boost annual spending from A$32.3 billion (US$24 billion) to A$42.4 billion (US$32 billion) by 2020-2021. This would have defense spending equal 2% of GDP. The increased funding would largely go to new submarines, warships and combat aircraft that would increase the Australian Defense Force’s potential reach into Southeast Asia.
Australian observers have cast the blueprint as partly in response to China’s rise. In particular, it is seen as a counter to Beijing’s increasingly aggressive moves in the South China Sea, where it is embroiled in territorial disputes with a host of Southeast Asian countries.
Taking the long view