Australian White Paper Takes Reserved Approach

While Australia’s 2009 Defense White Paper made waves across the Pacific Ocean by highlighting the rise of China’s military power and questioning a long-term commitment of the United States to the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s newly issued defense paper casts a more balanced and reserved tone. The Australian government “does not approach China as an adversary,” states the paper, issued on May 3. Instead, it insists that Australian policies are aimed at encouraging China’s “peaceful rise” and making sure that strategic competition does not lead to conflict in the “Indo-Pacific” area. While the previous white paper promised broad investments in air and naval forces, Australia’s defense budget has been more modest of late—falling to 1.56 percent of gross domestic product last year. Still, in remarks unveiling the new paper, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the country will proceed with investments in new technology—such as the F-35 strike fighter. Australia remains “committed to the [F-35] as our principle Australian defense force strike capability,” she said, adding that the government is anticipating that three operational squadrons will enter service beginning in 2020. In the interim, Australia will purchase 12 new E/A-18 electronic warfare aircraft over the next four years, to support the country’s existing fleet of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. (Includes Voice of America report and UPI report.) (See also Australian defense department release.)