Amid its worsening ties with China, India’s QUAD ally Australia plans to improve its military presence in its northern territory facing the Indo-Pacific in a bid to ready itself for a war-like situation.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on April 28 that his government will spend about $580 million to upgrade four northern military bases and expand war games with the United States.
The funds are a part of the $186.5 billion investment the Australian government has pledged for increasing the nation’s long strike capabilities over the next 10 years, as reported by EurAsian Times.
“No other country in the world – not even Taiwan, Japan or South Korea – are talking about the possibility of war with China, except Australia, experts talking to the Guardian said.
Peter Dutton the Australian defense minister, and his key aide Michael Pezzullo have theorized the risk of war with China for quite some time – drawing the ire of Beijing.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said “some individual politicians in Australia” were making “extremely irresponsible” statements “that incite confrontation and hype up threat of war”. “These people are the real troublemakers,” he said.
China-Australia relations have nosedived in the past couple of years with the latter raising security concerns about China’s 5G network and criticizing Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong.
With the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, their relations hit a new low with China responding angrily to the Australian government’s call for an independent investigation into the causes of the pandemic. The matter also led to a spate of tariffs from both sides despite China being Australia’s biggest trade partner.
— Reuters (@Reuters) April 28, 2021
Things got ugly last week when Australia’s federal government overruled the Victoria state’s decision to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese President Xi Jinping’s geostrategic project for the Asia-Pacific.
This decision led to a diplomatic standoff with Australian top officials stating that the Taiwan conflict could lead to war.
Earlier this week, Defence Minister Peter Dutton had said that Australia should turn its attention to nearer shores amid the Chinese militarization of the region’s ports while Home Affairs Department Secretary Mike Pezzullo had said that liberal democracies must brace for war.
In face of aggressive Chinese actions in the Indo-Pacific, the QUAD is projected as a liberal alliance between leading democratic powers in the region — India, Japan, Australia, and the US.
More than a decade ago, Australia had left the grouping. But after the East Asia Summit in 2017, the QUAD members agreed to revive it with the goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP).
QUAD also has increased bilateral cooperation between its members. Australia is planning to build new training facilities for joint military drills with the US in its northern territory. Additionally, an airstrip will be lengthened to support larger aircraft, and firing ranges will be overhauled.
With the upgrades, Australia’s long strike capacity might be able to reach the disputed South China Sea from its northern territory. The upgrades are set to be finished by 2026 while the next biennial war games with the US will happen in August.