Sydney, Australia, Mar 10 (EFE).- Australia’s prime minister announced Thursday an increase of 18,500 troops in the defense force by 2040 to reach around 80,000, with the aim of his country facing “threats” in the Indo-Pacific region.
The increase in military personnel, described as the largest in peace time, will cost Canberra about AU$38 billion ($27.8 billion), Scott Morrison told reporters during a visit to Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane.
“This is a significant vote of confidence in our defense forces, but it’s a significant recognition by our government which has always been clear-eyed about the threats and the environment that we face as a country, as a liberal democracy in the Indo-Pacific,” Morrison said.
He did not refer to any specific country, but Australia maintains a tense relationship with China, its main trading partner and which is expanding its presence in the region.
In recent years, Australia, along with the United States and other allies, have expressed concern about peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, where Beijing claims virtually all the islands and atolls in the South China Sea, a key maritime trade route rich in natural resources, and which collide with those of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.
China has also strengthened its relationship in recent years with some of the Pacific Island nations, historically linked to Australia’s influence.
Faced with the threat of China’s military, political and economic expansion, Canberra has reinforced and joined various security pacts such as AUKUS, signed in September with Washington and London, which includes the construction of nuclear-powered submarines for the country.
In an election campaign context marked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Defense Minister Peter Dutton told reporters that the increase in military personnel will also serve to deal with the expansion ambitions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“When you look at what’s happening in Europe at the moment, people who believe that President Putin’s only ambition is for the Ukraine don’t understand the history that our military leaders understand,” Dutton said.
“If people think that the ambitions within the Indo-Pacific are restricted just to Taiwan (claimed by China) and there won’t be knock-on impacts, if we don’t provide a deterrent effect and work closely with our colleagues and with our allies, then they don’t understand the lessons of history.” EFE