Australian prime minister: Multibillion-dollar military spending not a warning to PRC
Voice of America News
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, pictured, says multibillion-dollar investments in military bases in northern Australia are designed to enhance regional peace, rather than as a deliberate response to the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) growing assertiveness.
Australia is beefing up its military bases in the Northern Territory, including facilities to train aboriginal recruits, and others that host joint exercises with United States Marines stationed in the region.
Speaking at Robertson Army Barracks in the Northern Territory in late April 2021, Morrison insisted that a 10-year, U.S. $6 billion plan to improve defense facilities is intended to keep the peace in an “uncertain” region rather than prepare for conflict. He was responding to media questions about recent tensions with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over Taiwan.
“All of our objectives here through the activities of our defense forces are designed to pursue peace. That is the objective of our government,” he said.
Morrison denied that the huge investment in military bases is aimed at sending a message to the PRC. Government ministers and analysts have said that the CCP’s military expansion in the South China Sea and its crushing of democracy in Hong Kong have been of great strategic concern to Canberra.
Morrison, however, has also defended comments by Australia’s new defense minister, Peter Dutton, that the possibility of conflict with the CCP over Taiwan should not be “discounted.”
Dutton’s remarks have further inflamed diplomatic tensions between Canberra and Beijing, already strained by geopolitical and trade disputes.
Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called Australia’s politicians the “real troublemakers” and declared Australia’s concerns about the threat posed by the PRC as “unethical.”
The PRC previously accused Australia of peddling “anti-China hysteria.”
Australia has had to balance its long-standing military alliance with the U.S. and its valuable commercial ties with the PRC, its biggest trading partner.
Political squabbles with the PRC have had damaging economic consequences.
Canberra’s call in 2020 for a worldwide investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic that was first detected in China caused fury in Beijing. There followed sweeping tariffs and restrictions on a range of Australian exports to China, including wine, beef and coal.
IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS