Australia will boost defense spending by A$29.9 billion (US$21.5 billion) over the next decade, including increasing naval capacity as concern over Chinese militarization in the South China Sea intensifies, Bloomberg reported.
The United States will remain the pre-eminent global military power in the next two decades and will continue to be Australia’s most strategic partner, the 2016 Defense White Paper that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released in Canberra on Thursday said.
The strategic blueprint called on China to be more transparent about its defense policies.
“While China will not match the global strategic weight of the US, the growth of China’s national power, including its military modernization, means China’s policies and actions will have a major impact on the stability of the Indo-Pacific,” the paper said.
Tensions in the western Pacific are increasing as the US ramps up patrols amid signs China is militarizing artificial islands that it’s building in shipping and fishing areas claimed by other countries.
That’s created a headache for Australia, which hosts US Marines and military exercises in its remote northern regions, even as it seeks stronger economic ties with China, its largest trading partner.
“While major conflict between the US and China is unlikely, there are a number of points of friction in the region in which differences between the US and China could generate rising tensions,” the paper said.
These include the “East and South China Seas, the airspace above those seas, and in the rules that govern international behavior, particularly in the cyber and space domains”, it said.
The paper commits 25 percent of defense capital expenditure to maritime capabilities in what it describes as “the most comprehensive regeneration of our Navy since the Second World War”.
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