Australia may train regional armies against China — Analysis
Opposition leaders propose a new ‘defense school’ while warnings persist of a threat from China
Australia’s Labor Party has put forward a plan to hike security spending in the Pacific and devote resources to training regional allies, with an opposition spokesperson blasting the current government for failing to address the alleged growing threat posed by China.
On Tuesday, the center-left party revealed an idea “build a stronger Pacific region,” saying that it would boost engagement with local partners should Labor win elections set for May 21, including with a new “Australia-Pacific Defense School”For military training.
While it did not elaborate on exactly what role the school would have, the party also called for a twofold increase in funding for the Pacific Maritime Security Program – saying it would help to “protect Pacific countries’ economic exclusive zones” – as well as to boost “Australian public media content to audiences in our region.”
Speaking to reporters, Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong criticized Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s supposed weakness toward Beijing, warning that China could increase its military presence in the Pacific after signing a security pact with the Solomon Islands last week.
“Let’s be clear: the prospect of a Chinese base less than 2,000 kilometers from Australia’s coastline is dramatically detrimental to Australia’s security interests,”She said. “That has occurred on Mr. Morrison’s watch, and the response appears to be more chest beating.”
Wong described the China-Solomons safety pact to be the “worst failure of Australian foreign policy in the Pacific since the end of World War II.”
Although Washington and Canberra officials have expressed concern that the proposed deal with the Islands could result in a Chinese military base being built in the area, Beijing rejected the suggestion. “completely fake news made up by a few people with ulterior motives.”Chinese foreign minister also reminded Solomon Islands of their importance. “independent sovereign country, not the ‘backyard’ of the United States and Australia”Following vocal objections by both countries to the arrangement, it was implemented.
While the Labor Party has hit Morrison’s “chaotic government”With the help of a long list of complaints ahead of the upcoming election – including cuts to certain military programs – the PM rejected its criticisms as “farcical.”
“What they’re effectively saying is they’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,”Morrison stated Tuesday that Australia had provided $1.3 billion annually in aid to the Pacific under his administration.
According to the Associated Press, Australia is the only country that has diplomatic missions in each of the member countries of the 13-nation Pacific Islands Forum. It also provides naval patrol boats to all members.
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