The India-China stand-off was mentioned by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison while he launched the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2024 Structure Plan today.
“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,” Mr Morrison said.
Stressing that the Indo-Pacific area is the epicentre of rising strategic competition, he said the risk of miscalculation and even conflict is heightening. Regional military modernisation is occurring at an unprecedented rate. Capabilities and reach are expanding.
Raising the defence budget by a whopping 40 per cent to 270 billion dollars for a ten-year period, Mr Morrison said: “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”.
China has been involved in territorial disputes in both South China Sea and East China Sea and has built militarised islands in the area under its control.
Last month, Australia – which had also banned China’s Huawei for 5G — said a “sophisticated state actor” was behind cyber-attacks on all levels of the government, political bodies, essential service providers and operators of critical infrastructure, hinting at China.
“Disinformation and foreign interference have been enabled and accelerated by new and emerging technologies,” PM Morrison had said.
Before this, Australia had also called for an independent inquiry into the source of coronavirus, infuriating China.
Beijing has suspended beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors and imposed hefty tariffs on barley, which is being seen as retaliatory action.