Defense Minister’s Speech Thursday Will Preview Coming White Paper’s 20-Year Military-Upgrade PlanRob Taylor, Wall Street Journal
27 August 2015
SYDNEY – Australia’s coming strategic blueprint will call for more closely entwining its military with its U.S. counterpart, including a more visible presence in the country of U.S. naval ships and warplanes.
Defense Minister Kevin Andrews was to give a preliminary outline Thursday of the 20-year, $300 billion Australia dollar (U.S. $214 billion) plan to boost the military, which will be detailed in a future white paper.
“Through this white paper, the government will seek to broaden and deepen our alliance with the United States, recognizing that the U.S. alliance will remain fundamental to our security and defense planning and the highest priority for our international cooperation,” Mr. Andrews planned to say in a speech to U.S. and Australian business groups. Parts of the speech were obtained in advance by The Wall Street Journal.
The much-delayed paper, now expected in October, is based on the long-standing belief that Australia’s security is most effectively underpinned by a strong U.S. presence in Asia, offsetting a more assertive China.
But while it will lay out a more muscular approach in line with Washington – and welcome the U.S. strategic rebalance toward the region, as Mr. Andrews’s speech says – it will also look to avoid overt criticism of Beijing.
Six years ago then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd enraged China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, with a defense white paper that argued Beijing’s rise posed regional security risks.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised to boost military spending to 2% of gross domestic product inside a decade, with a military budget of A$32 billion next year and a cumulative A$132 billion over the next few years.
Last year Australia ranked sixth globally in weapons imports, according to the Stockholm Institute for Peace Research, spending almost A$14 billion on arms.
A large chunk of the added spending will go to a stronger open-ocean presence for Australia’s navy, including eight new submarines, nine frigates and up to 20 corvettes at a cost of A$89 billion. Australia is also introducing two amphibious carriers and missile destroyers as well as stealth fighter planes.
Submarine makers from Japan, France and Germany are pursuing the business. Japanese shipbuilders and defense officials were in Adelaide on Wednesday to push a 10-year, A$50 billion deal for Soryu submarines. Japan is seeking to become a major weapons exporter for the first time since World War II.
“This white paper will deliver a future Australian Defense Force that is potent, agile and ready to respond whenever our interests are engaged across the world,” Mr. Andrews was to say in his speech, according to the excerpts.
It added that “Force Posture Initiatives” being discussed with the U.S. and likely to be reflected in the white paper would enhance the ability of their militaries to operate together, building on current rotations by U.S. Marines in Australia’s north.
“We are also continuing to develop enhanced cooperation between the Royal Australian Air Force and the United States Air Force, and we are examining a range of practical options to enhance naval cooperation,” the speech says.