Sydney, Australia, Apr 5 (EFE).- Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton Tuesday announced a major weapons update with a new military purchase of long-range missiles amid a risk of conflict in the Indo-Pacific region.
The acquisition, part of a decadal plan to modernize the Australian defense forces that will cost AU$3.5 billion ($2.66 billion), also comes in the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We need to be realistic about what is going on to happen over the next few years or the next decade,” said Dutton in an interview with Channel Nine.
He said nobody would have predicted the Ukrainian conflict even two or five years ago.
“We are also very worried about what is happening in the Indo–Pacific,” said the minister, as per the transcript of the interview by the defense ministry.
“The Chinese government is on a course in relation to Taiwan. They are amassing nuclear weapons and we want to make sure that our country has the capability to deter any act of aggression against our country, but it is a very real and serious situation.”
Dutton said he was not talking about a potential conflict in the 2040s.
“There is a potential of conflict within our region within just a couple of years, and we should be realistic about that threat. And that is why we are bringing forward the acquisition of these missiles, both for our destroyers, for our ships and also for our fast jets.”
Australia sees China, its main business partner, as a threat in the Indo-Pacific region amid Beijing’s expanding influence.
China and the Solomon Islands have finalized a security agreement that can allow Beijing to establish a military base in the Pacific nation.
In a separate interview with Radio 3AW, the Australian minister said the new weapons acquisition of missiles would replace the harpoons in the Australian naval fleet.
“So we get additional range and capability and accuracy,” he said.
“It is also about replacing or enhancing the weapons that we have on our fast jet fleet as well – so on the Super Hornets and then into the F35’s as well. So there is a much greater range, but a much greater capability.”
The announcement coincides with the publication of a report by the Australian Strategic Studies Institute (ASPI), that warned of disadvantages in a hypothetical regional maritime conflict with China.
ASPI noted that China had consistently armed itself in the last two decades with a special emphasis on the maritime security.
The report called on the Australian government to change its strategy to keep the region safe.
The Australian government announced that it would allocate more than two percent of its gross domestic product to the defense sector in an election year marked by Canberra’s support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. EFE