Australian PM cites 'rising strategic competition' in Indo-Pacific region behind 40 pc increase in defence spend; mentions India-China standoff
New Delhi/IBNS: Australia has increased its defence budget by a whopping 40 per cent to 270 billion dollars for a ten-year period, the country's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while he launched the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2024 Structure Plan on Wednesday.
While unveiling Australia's new defence strategy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison mentioned India-China standoff and stressed that the Indo-Pacific area is the "epicentre" of "rising strategic competition", reports said.
“The Indo-Pacific is the epicentre of rising strategic competition. Our region will not only shape our future, increasingly though, it is the focus of the dominant global contest of our age. This is the setting for it,” Morrison said, reported media.
“Tensions over territorial claims are rising across the Indo-Pacific region, as we have seen recently on the disputed border between India and China, and the South China Sea, and the East China Sea,” he said.
"Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, the countries of Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Pacific all have agency, choices to make, parts to play and of course, so does Australia,” he pointed out.
"It is not just China and the United States that will determine whether our region stays on path for free and open trade, investment and cooperation that has underpinned stability and prosperity, the people-to-people relationships that bind our region together. Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, the countries of South-East Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Pacific all have agency, choices to make, parts to play and of course, so does Australia," he said, according to the reports.
China claims most parts of South China Sea and has built islands on various strategic locations which fall under the territories of countries like Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Vietnam. In pursuit of its ambition, last month China had unilaterally declared two new administrative districts in the South China Sea, set up its "research stations" on two islands in the key waterway and downed a Vietnamese fishing vessel, said reports.
Slowly China has made inroads into Australia's backyard offer infrastructure aid to countries in the South Pacific region. Australia had expressed "great concern" over reports of China setting up a military base in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, which was later denied by both the nations.
Australia has already banned China's Huawei for 5G, stating that "sophisticated state actor" was behind cyberattacks on all levels of the government, essential services, political bodies and critical infrastructure, hinting at China, said reports.
Further, Australia also backed US demands of an independent inquiry into the source of coronavirus in China.